February 4: Happiness Haiku

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nexus_6/3017902989/sizes/l/
image via Flickr CC by nexus6

Girls’ choir spins pure tones
Words of comfort, peace and grace:
No tears in heaven.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death
or sorrow or crying or pain.
All these things are gone forever.
Rev. 21:4
(New Living Translation)

I got a call on Sunday from the Artistic Director of the Milwaukee Children’s Choirs.  Suddenly, they were in need of a replacement (permanent!) pianist.  Thanks to a friend and fellow accompanist, I was recommended and asked to play.

I went to the first rehearsal this evening.  The group of young 3rd to 5th grade girls meets once a week in an absolutely fabulous downtown Youth Arts center.

The room was filled with red t-shirts, snazzy boots and wiggly, smiling girls.  When they sang it was angelic and the room was transformed into a huge gothic cathedral!

The first song they sang with piano accompaniment was a setting of Rev. 21:4.  My heart lurched when I opened the music. Tears sprang into my eyes as I quickly scanned the piece. This verse was one that I held onto two years on this very day — the day my Dad died — the day he fell asleep on the couch in Indiana and woke up in heaven!

He had been sick for so long and had been so miserable. It was a great comfort to me to read these words and to keep them in my mind and heart that week — through the funeral planning, all the visitation hours, through the sorrow, laughter and tears.

So as I sat there in that room with all the that young vibrant musical energy, I was filled with gratitude and joy.

God brought me through. I believe I was sitting in the exact place I was meant to be at that moment.
Thanks be to God!

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Be a good neighbor.

Milwaukee River image by TTQ cc
Milwaukee River image by TTQ cc

Be a good neighbor — Re-visited one year later.

Today is the one year anniversary of my first regular post on The Tromp Queen blog.  Click on “Be a good neighbor” here or above to read that post.

(The VERY first one was called “Apparently I can be talked into starting a blog but I don’t really count that one since it was mostly just an announcement of my presence and intentions).

It is also the two-year anniversary of my dad’s death.

I wrote a post about my dad last May as I contemplated Father’s Day without Dad.  The post is “Missing Dad.”

A year later — I’ve written 140 blog posts as The Tromp Queen.  I have 200 followers here.  I’ve made new friends and have enjoyed this whole blogosphere more than I ever imagined.  I recently started a recipe blog, called The Heat is ON!  My family endured a year cram packed with changes.  New job, new city, new home, new schools, new neighbors — new practically everything.

Some things never change.  I still miss Dad, and I always will.  The events of that day and the week after feel simultaneously quite recent and a long time ago.

Thank YOU for reading, commenting, following and most of all for caring.  I hope you’ll continue to hang around for rest of the journey.

It means more to me than you know.

Joy 365: January

The Tromp Queen’s January Joy 365 project is COmPleTe!! Please check out my photo gallery of January Joys! Next month, I’m going to write a “Happiness Haiku” every day, or at least that is my goal. I will wait til I have the whole month complete and then post them all on Feb. 28. Enjoy!

The Tromp Queen

January:

Jan 6:  Snow Day (actually frigid wind chill day) — watching Bollywood Bride and Prejudice — FUN and JOYFUL!  (clip below)

Jan. 28:  Snow Day again!  Thankful to be safe at home with both children.  No School for either because of Blizzard/Polar Vortex revisit.

Beautiful animated Polar Vortex image.

Amazing photographs of Polar Vortex 2014 in Chicago from Colossal.

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The Miracle of Grace

Once upon a time there was a young family: a mom, a dad and a darling baby boy. The baby boy had blond curly hair, and was cute as a button. He was quite intelligent, a bundle of energy and very creative. The mother worried that he was an only child. She had Polycyistic Ovary Syndrome so it was very unlikely she would have another baby without major medical intervention. In fact, the boy had been a miracle — helped along by many fertility doctors and nurses through over a year and a half of fertility treatment, culminating in over a dozen shots of Metrodin, AIH, pregnancy, and birth of healthy baby boy!

Three years later. December. The mother and father discussed options. Because of insurance changes there was only one more chance to try the incredibly expensive Metrodin treatment. This time, however, no egg was fertilized. The parents were sad, but tried to accept that another child might not be in their future. They decided another Metrodin treatment was not what they wanted — no matter if the insurance ran out or not.

January. Not long after learning the fertility treatment had failed, the mother had a very vivid dream one night. There was a warm golden strongly comforting voice (no image) that said: “Get a house, lose some weight and the baby need will be solved. Also, remember the story of Abraham and Sarah.” That was it. There really wasn’t a “you will have a baby” message in the dream. The young mother was left with a feeling of peace and woke with a sense of determination — and with a specific plan of action!

February. Though getting pregnant seemed destined for the back burner, two “by chance” conversations at church led the mother to a new fertility doctor in a nearby town. Soon the couple and the new doctor were getting set to try a less expensive and less invasive approach to solve the fertility issues. Then, suddenly the doctor had to leave the country for a couple of months to take care of a family emergency, so the plans to try again to get pregnant were put off for a few months.

In the meantime, the young mother called a realtor (just a few days after having the dream) and started looking at houses. In just a few weeks, a home was found. The couple felt a sense of peace in the new house. Though the house was old, it had the feel of being the “right” place for them to live. This was the place for them create a home with their son. They would be happy there.

At the same time, the young mother (who had struggled with weight issues since her teen years) was inspired by Oprah’s Make the Connection book and managed to lose about 15 or 20 pounds in a couple of months. She got up early, went to the gym and worked out even when the college football or swim team guys were there! It wasn’t easy, of course, especially because of her PCOS, but she was making progress.

April. After the couple of months had passed, the young family had moved into their new “old” house and were getting settled. It was time to call the fertility doctor’s office to set up an appointment. Though it had been 6 or 7 weeks since her last cycle, the young mother knew she was not likely to be pregnant. Three different doctors had told her she would not get pregnant without major medical intervention. Since the mother had been through months and months of treatments, she knew the first thing the clinic would ask was “when was your last cycle?” and “did you take a pregnancy test?” She knew they would not start any fertility treatments until a negative pregnancy test result is in hand. So — she took a test.

It was 6 am. It was the day before her 36th birthday. Odds of getting pregnant for people with fertility issues goes WAY down after 35. It goes down again every year after that.

With a sigh, she took the test. She waited the few minutes. She looked at the stick. She looked at the box. She looked at them both again. Surprise! Disbelief. Doubt. Who can she call this early?

Husband. He is already at work. She calls him.
Both are cautiously excited, but wary.

Anne. “Are these tests ever wrong?” Anne has 4 children. She did NOT have fertility issues. Anne said the tests are very accurate. This could be true!

Who does she call next? Her pastor.

Why? Several reasons.

A major reason is that the pastor also had had fertility issues. The pastor was one of the “by chance” conversations that had led to the new Dr. connection. She understood the issues of fertility because she had been through some of it herself.

Another reason was because of Lenten Vespers.

(Go back to March…) The pastor had done a series of homilies on the topic of healing. HEALING.

She talked about Namaan (2 Kings 5:1-19), about miraculous babies (Elizabeth, Sarah, and others), and about different ways healing could come. One might be healed because circumstances or desires change. One might be healed miraculously and immediately. (It does still happen!) One might only be healed after death, upon reaching heaven. Healing could come in a way different from what anyone might imagine or expect.

The young mother had lunch with the pastor one day during Lent. She told the pastor that she had never considered asking God to heal her, but that after hearing the series of talks it was weighing on her mind. The pastor replied that there would be a “Service of the Word for Healing” when people could come specifically to pray with the pastor for healing. The young mother said she would think about it.

(Early April) The night of the healing service, which happened to be on Sunday night at the beginning of Holy Week, life did not go smoothly in the young family’s home. The couple had a verbal disagreement, and the wife took a tearful walk down to the nearby neighborhood park. She was surprised to find an acquaintance from church sitting on the park bench.

Now this acquaintance was not a bosom buddy. They barely knew each other. It was clear that the young mother was upset, though, so what would turn out to be a very personal conversation got started.

The person in the park had had fertility issues as well. She had never had a child. She and her husband had gone through many rough years. She understood the push and pull of career needs and of family needs. They discussed the pastor’s series of healing messages. They discussed the young mother’s desire to have another child, a sibling for her son and to fill the baby shaped space left open in her heart.

She, the park bench sitter, urged the young mother to go back home to sort things out with her husband. She, the park bench sitter, would go to the healing service and pray for the young mother.

Life kept moving. The couple sorted things out. Holy Week went forward. A few days later, Ash Wednesday arrived.

The couple was new to being Lutheran. Lent was not a familiar concept or process to them. On Ash Wednesday, the pastor put ashes on foreheads and laid her hands on parishioners as they knelt to pray together. The young mother hesitated to go forward because this was a completely foreign concept to her. She believed in Jesus, and had been a Christian for many years. Her faith was strong. She just didn’t know what to think about the ashes and the laying on of hands. She thought it through, though, and decided to go forward. As she knelt, she was overcome with strong emotion — almost like being swept up in a strong wind — tears began to flow. She was nearly sobbing on the way back to her seat and was literally shaking. Embarrassed, she hoped no one could see how the experience had affected her. In the end, the turmoil left and she felt deeply peaceful.

Sunday. Easter Sunday.

Easter egg hunting in the yard, Easter Sunday, 1998
Easter egg hunting in the yard, Easter Sunday, 1998

After church, the boy searched for eggs in the large yard. He had on striped pants and his blond curly hair was adorable. He carried a basket and searched all over the yard (green grass for Easter!) for the hidden eggs. The young mother watched as the father took photos. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, the sky was bright blue with a few white clouds. She had an overwhelming sense of certainty that her son would be fine as an only child. He would have friends, he would attend the wonderful children’s center in town, he would be more than fine.

She realized this was her healing. She was healed of the desire (deep need) to have another child. She was content.

Fast forward and/or rewind back to the day of the pregnancy test, the day before her 36th birthday. April 28.

Hopefully, filling in those details explains why she called her pastor.

That day the young woman went to the Dr. to have the pregnancy test confirmed. It was TRUE. This was REAL. (Side note:  Another really cool thing happened that day. On the way back into her house, she greeted a neighbor she barely knew and invited her in. They ended up becoming best friends and created many happy memories together!)

It was clear in the young mother’s (now mother-to-be again!) mind and heart that the baby’s name would be Sarah. Her middle name was not as easy. Elizabeth? Maybe. Then one of her friends spoke of her dear old Aunt Grace. The Aunt used to say, “Everyone needs a little Grace in their lives.” She thought to herself, “Everyone needs a LOT of Grace in their lives.” Sarah Grace. It felt perfect. God had graced them with a miracle baby; Grace should be part of her name.

Months later, the young mother (now several months pregnant) was in a Sunday morning church service when the scripture from Genesis (21:1-8) which tells the story of Sarah’s miraculous pregnancy was read. The young mother heard the voice again saying “remember the story of Abraham and Sarah.”  She felt like she had a “miracle” sign flashing over her head.

In her heart, she realized she had not thought of the first dream as a check list. She really hadn’t focused on the “list” at all.  She had followed the path that seemed to lie at her feet. It was almost as if just by hearing the words in her dream, they had become the plan and had become reality. Not that she hadn’t worked hard at losing weight or getting the house. She had. She didn’t feel like she had been jumping through hoops or marking things off a “to do” list to “earn” the baby.

Another tidbit: At the first ultrasound back in May, the mother asked for information about the due date and when the baby had most likely been conceived. The answers: Due date was late December. Date of conception: Holy Week. (Service of Healing and Ash Wednesday prayers…remember?) God winks.

The bottom line is: It is hard to describe a miracle.

There are more “God Things” in this story, but I’ve gone on long enough for now.

Flash forward again. December 3.
She comes EARLY.
Three and a half weeks early!

Sarah Grace, 3 days old
Sarah Grace, 3 days old

The pastor visits the young mother in the hospital. She is holding the baby. The baby’s name is Sarah Grace. The pastor and the young mother pray. The pastor’s tears drop gently on the baby’s face as they pray together — Tears of Joy for the miracle of life that lay in their arms.

Grief. Tears.
Prayer. Tears.
Healing. Grace.
Miracle. Tears.
Joy.

Flash forward to the very next Easter.  Sarah Grace was baptized by the pastor in a gorgeous lacy baptismal dress borrowed from Anne (which had been worn by her four children).

Another flash forward. The miracle baby, Sarah Grace, turned 15 this week.

Hallelujah! Joy. Tears. Gratitude.

The not-so-young mother treasures all these things and ponders them in her heart.

meraki

from Word Porn’s facebook page

Meraki is one of those words that is difficult to translate.  A story called “Translating the Untranslatable” about the work of Christopher J Moore  aired on Morning Edition (NPR)  way back in 2005 explains it this way: 

This is a word that modern Greeks often use to describe doing something with soul, creativity, or love — when you put “something of yourself” into what you’re doing, whatever it may be.  Meraki is often used to describe cooking or preparing a meal, but it can also mean arranging a room, choosing decorations, or setting an elegant table. 

Passion flower
Passion flower (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

On this day when many Americans (including me) have spent many hours preparing and enjoying delicious food for and with our families — meraki is a handy word to know.

A synonym in English might be “passion” but something definitely gets lost in the translation in this case.

I enjoy meeting people who display meraki and I love spending time with friends who live with meraki.  I strive to live life with meraki — and have been for as long as I can remember — even though I never heard the word til today.  (My apologies if I’m using the word incorrectly!  I abide by the meraki spirit and will continue to do so.  In my opinion, there is no other way to live — no other way to BE.

English: passion flower
English: passion flower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Silence is a booming emptiness

Sunset Swim image by familymwr via Flickr CC

 

Do They Know?
By Jill Hasker

Silence is a booming emptiness –
stillness’ sheer weight and presence imposes and expands —
squeezing thoughts as words clang and clamor to be free

Words circle –
unwilling to coalesce
to relay heart depths, currents, soul swells
Words evade – bobbing in choppy waves

How can I convey?
music surrounds me,
reaches in with tendrils and slivers and shivers
‘til – finally home again – a single tear emerges

Do they know?
music’s magic melds and heals…
Joy enfolds sorrow –
both continue to exist –
but the golden glow fills edges, surrounds, gently embraces
and eventually peacefully subdues
the shiny, hard grey remnant

Dregs of dread drop as ashes swept away by shimmering moments of utter beauty.
New shoots emerge, freshly green
fragile durable
resilient unyielding
fleeting eternal

(They/it/we) are not
(gone/lost/empty) but
(replaced/sated/covered) with
(love/joy/beauty).

What was done, shared, said, created is not void –
It endures.
And remembering – still holding it heart close –
our fingers brush this edge of eternity.

I wrote this poem in the wee hours this morning.  On Sunday afternoon, I got to hear the two choirs I used to accompany (for the last 6 or 7 years!) sing their fall concert.  I admit I had been dreading this first time just a little bit — hesitant to hear them sing without me.  I thought I would be swept back into the sadness and sorrow I felt when I said goodbye.  I worried for no reason, though.  Instead of sorrow — I was swept away by the sheer JOY of watching them sing and of listening to the soul stirring music they were making.

I shed one small tear near the very end, when the men’s choir started to sing “Bring Him Home” from Les Miz.

I felt a wave of healing and of gratitude for all that I had shared and experienced with these groups, with these people, in that very place (and in many others).  As I walked away from the hall, the words of a song we had performed ran through my head “Though much is taken, much abides.” (quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson)

I am left with the certainty that what we had and created still exists and that it WILL endure in my heart (and hopefully in theirs as well!).

Sometimes There is Beauty

The Heart
The Heart (Photo credit: petalouda62)

Some of you might remember reading a post I wrote several months ago: It hurts because it matters.

The amazingly talented young singer I describe in that post recently wrote about me on her blog, Sometimes There is Beauty, reflecting on what I wrote. The post is called “Dear Jill.”

Working with people like Amanda is the reason I’m still reeling from the changes this year brought.  I’m now several hours away from them, not playing piano on a regular basis now, and I am still grieving the loss of those deeply personal and creative connections we shared.

This was my reply when I read her post:
I love you, dear Amanda. Thank you for writing these beautiful words and for sharing them with me. My heart feels the same as yours. I try to tell myself that Pooh was right: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” But my heart is still sad and empty without the music and connections we created — day by day, week by week. (Of course, tears are streaming down my face as I write this!) i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) — For Good.

Thirds
Thirds (Photo credit: e_monk)
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
….
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

— by ee cummings

****************

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
……
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good
–lyrics of For Good, from the musical Wicked
music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
******

Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel sing For Good, accompanied by Stephen Swchwartz on the piano:

******

fabulous Fazoli piano!
fabulous Fazoli piano!

The Science of Happiness

What makes you happy? Have you ever wondered why?

This video investigates what makes people happier and why.

After watching this, I couldn’t get the people, what they said, and how they reacted out of my mind.

Why is it so difficult for us to tell the people we love how we feel about them? Why is it difficult for us to tell them how they make US feel? Why does expressing gratitude often make both the “teller” and the “hearer” cry?

I think I make an effort to be aware of blessings in my life. I try to notice beautiful things wherever they may be. In fact, sometimes people tease me about how much I love nature and beauty. I have written a few letters and emails over the years to express gratitude and thankfulness, but I could certainly do more and do it more often.

Do you feel the impulse to follow the experiment through with yourself and someone you care about?

Mull it over. Give it some thought.

Who would you call? What would you say? What is holding you back from doing it?

I’d love to hear what happens when and if you do.

 

It hurts because it matters

It hurts because it matters.

“So often we try to make other people feel better by minimizing their pain, by telling them that it will get better (which it will) or that there are worse things in the world (which there are).
But that’s not what I actually needed.

What I actually needed was for someone to tell me
that it hurt because it mattered. 

I have found this very useful to think about over the years, and I find that it is a lot easier and more bearable to be sad when you aren’t constantly berating yourself for being sad.”
– John Green

See 20 more John Green quotes here.  

It hurts because it matters.

We were in a small practice room on campus. If you’ve never been in a practice room it is a bit like a walk-in closet. There is a piano, a piano bench, maybe a chair and usually a music stand. Sometimes there is a mirror. The rooms are small and are supposedly soundproof. In reality they are stuffy, dusty, and sometimes smelly!

But back to my story . . . I was accompanying one of the amazing young singers here recently. She sang this fantastically difficult passage gloriously (as always) — from a Handel aria — it is fast, complicated and very high! She sings it with such a lovely ease (though it is not easy at all!) and the sound spins and shimmers.

I stopped and looked up at her with my eyes suddenly full of tears. She stopped and said, “What? What’s wrong?” I croaked, “I’m going to miss you so much.”

I will miss her talent, her humor, her quirkiness, her musicality, her dedication, her humility — her love of thrift shops, of purple and of God (not necessarily in that order!) — her glorious high B flats! All of that.

We hugged.

We shed a few tears.

My mom happened to be visiting that day, so she was also in that tiny dusty practice room and she said —

“The risk of loving is worth the pain.”

I’ve had a few more teary days since then. During the last voice lesson for each of my students I reflected about the journey I’ve been on with each of them, and on the journeys I’ve been on with other students before them.

I can’t yet put it all into words, but I have been hanging on to this idea to get me through —

The reason it hurts so much
to let go and say good bye
is that it matters.

A line of text from a Chanticleer CD came to mind as I was writing this post. The song I remembered is called “Wild Grass.” It is one of a set of Tang poems set to music by composer Chen Yi. The second is from the same set of texts, and I just discovered it tonight while I was searching for the wild grass text.

English: Wild Grass in India

Wild Grass

Wild grasses spreading o’er the plain
With every season come and go. 
Heath fire can’t burn them up, again
They rise when the vernal winds blow.
Their scent o’er runs the old pathway;
Their color covers the ruined town.
Seeing my friend going away,
My sorrow grows like wild grass o’er grown.
–Bai Ju-yi (772-846)

Sky and earth forever last,
Lonely, I felt sad with running tears.

–Chen Zi-ang (661-702)

English: Lonely Tree In the fields to the west...
English: Lonely Tree In the fields to the west of the A515 near Cubley. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

i am a little church

Little Country Church
Little Country Church (Photo credit: p medved)

i am a little church

i am a little church (no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
– i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are the prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying) children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope, and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

I am a little church (far from the frantic world
with its rapture and anguish) at peace with nature
– i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring, I lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

— e. e. cummings
from 95 poems


i am a little church
sung by Texas Tech Women’s Chorale
(This is not my choir! I think we sing it better than they do…)
Choir directed by Dr. Carolyn Cruse
Music composed by Daniel Brewbaker
Based on poetry by e.e. cummings, this setting is dedicated to the composer’s mother on the occasion of her 87th birthday.

i am a little church (no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
I played this lovely song in a small country church this morning for the wonderful women’s choir I accompany.

Red-Winged Blackbird (Male), Colony Farm Regio...

The windows were open and a warm breeze was blowing. Today was one of the very first truly nice spring days we have had this year. The grass is getting quite green. The birds were chirping in nearby trees, bushes and in the nearby fields.

The church was full.
Full of singers.
Full of congregation members.
Full of music.
Full of friends.
Full of love.

My eyes were soon full of tears as our director, my friend and respected colleague of many years, read the poem out loud with great care and expression to the congregation before the women began to sing it.

The words were so beautiful.

The song is beautiful and deeply moving.

Tears were streaming down my face for most of the song this morning: tears of sadness/joy/grief/gladness.
One of my dear friends said it this way: “You cry for beauty.”

I will try to share some of the thoughts that were flowing through my mind as we sang and I played this morning.

i am not sorry when sun and rain make april
I am most definitely not sad that sun and rain have finally made april — finally on april 28!

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower
My life (mother, teacher, musician) is very much that of a reaper and a sower. Yesterday afternoon I was recognized during my daughter’s final Children’s Choir concert for my seven years directing and teaching the youngest singers. All singers who had ever been in my choirs (current and past) were called onto the stage for a photo opportunity. I was astounded at the number of children! Teachers do not often get the chance to see several years of their students at the same place and time. I say this very humbly, but it is a great joy to hear from former students (and parents and grandparents) that they love to sing, love music, are still singing and that they love, remember and are thankful for me. Seeing their smiling faces and gathering the hugs they freely gave is a joy that will stay with me forever.

Motherhood is very much a long term investment. My babies are now teenagers. I often think to myself, “I gave up my career and 17 years of my life and this is what my child is saying/doing/being?” Though I am deeply proud of both of them, but at times they can be excessively exasperating. I hold onto the thought that I am sowing seeds, that I am training them up in the way they should go, that I am giving them roots and wings.

(finding and losing and laughing and crying) children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness
My recent weeks have been filled with finding and losing and laughing and crying and with sadness, joy, grief and gladness as well. My family is on the verge of finding a “new” normal and of losing our “old” way of life (huge impending move and career change — see older blog posts). I have laughed through tears, and felt joy mixed with sadness so often that it has nearly become my new default emotion.

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:

photo by Chris Palmer, via Flickr CC; Spring Grove Cemetery
photo by Chris Palmer, via Flickr CC; Spring Grove Cemetery

I felt this very keenly in this lovely little church surrounded by greening growing fields, chirping singing birds and not far away, a small silent rural cemetery. (Another of the choir songs this morning was “May the Circle Be Unbroken” — birth, life, death, resurrection — the great unbroken circle.) Sometimes the eternal can feel very much present and immediate. I felt that.

i am a little church at peace with nature
I realized this morning again what a precious gift this life is. Faith, hope and love abide: these three.
But the greatest of these is LOVE.
I will treasure the great gift of this morning:
having a “moment” that stands still in time and memory in that beautiful little country church with wide open windows filled with bird songs, music, friends and love.
winter by spring, I lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

Amen.

The Blackbird.
The Blackbird. (Photo credit: Pat Dalton…)

Click here to read another blog post about this morning, written by one of the choir members.

Joy and Beauty

“Let the beauty of what we love be what we do.” — Rumi

Thank You
Thank You (Photo credit: drp)

I have a necklace that has this Rumi quote on it.  This is what I endeavor to do with my life every day.  It isn’t always easy to stay focused and to be in that zone of creativity/beauty/joy, but I do make that my goal.

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” — Rumi

Flow, river, flow
Flow, river, flow (Photo credit: spodzone)

Doing things from your soul.  Yes, it takes energy and some days you just would rather be a slacker and stay home in bed.  But once you put yourself out there and get moving, you realize that who you are and what you do matters greatly to those around you.  I have been experiencing and living in this river of joy this week.  The college students in the choirs I accompany surprised me at our last concert with bouquets of flowers and much pomp and circumstance.  (There was a throne, a crown, a dozen red roses, a bouquet of flowers, a box of tissues, and alumni returning to sing with the choirs not one but TWO songs sung in my honor!!) I was overwhelmed by their generosity and by the things they said and did to express their love and appreciation.  They gave me a scrapbook full of letters.  Some were beautifully illustrated and amazingly creative and others were written on plain paper with a pencil.  ALL of them touched me deeply.  They all in their individual styles shared stories, memories, gratitude, appreciation and wishes for a bright future for me.  I was and am overwhelmed.  Did I already say that?  Well, I was.  I am.  What a wonderful thing to be told that I have made a difference to and had a positive impact on so many of these young lives!  I will never forget what they did for me.  Their words and actions will stay with me in my heart forever right with the memories of all the joy and music we’ve shared over the years.

“I have found the joy no tongue can tell,
How its waves of glory roll;
It is like a great o’erflowing well,
Springing up within my soul.
There is Joy unspeakable and full of glory!
Oh, the half has never yet been told!”
— Barney Warren (hymn written in 1900)

bubbling brook.
bubbling brook. (Photo credit: matt.hintsa)

“But listen to me. For one moment quit being sad.
Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you.” — Rumi

in November
in November (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These quotes about being quiet to listen for blessings dropping and about choosing joy are ones that I also find inspiring.  My mom and I were just talking about this today.  I said, “Some people are just determined to be unhappy.”  True!  It takes a certain core of fortitude to seek out and choose to recognize (and then embrace!) the joy.  It is always there.  Sometimes it is deeply buried and we feel the darkness settling in.  Living through those times takes endurance, family, faith, friends — most of all it takes LOVE.

“We can not cure the world of sorrows but we can choose to live in joy.”  — Joseph Campbell

“Joy does not simply happen to us.  We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen

Choose Joy
Choose Joy (Photo credit: denisedaysmith)

“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” — Ps. 30:5 New Living Translation

Sunrise 30-4-2011
Sunrise 30-4-2011 (Photo credit: Mundoo)

“Yahweh, your God, is in the midst of you, a mighty one who will save. He will rejoice over you with joy. He will calm you in his love. He will rejoice over you with singing.” — Zephaniah 3:17 WEB (World English Bible)

JOY to the World!!!
JOY to the World!!! (Photo credit: Jeanette’s Ozpix)

A dear friend of mine sent me this scripture from Zephaniah recently when we were needing to make the decision about taking the new job and moving to another city.  I really like the imagery of being calmed with LOVE and that an eternal being (God) would rejoice over me with singing.

Another friend reminded me of this Dr. Seuss wisdom:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
— Dr. Seuss

I have shed many, many tears this week:
Many, many tears of Joy —
A few tears of sorrow.
I also smiled.  I smiled a LOT.

I am sad that it is over.
But I am VERY, very, very glad it happened.

Love heart
Love heart (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Tears of Joy (Happy Happy Joy Joy Daily Prompt)

When was the last time you cried tears of joy?

The last time I remember crying tears of joy was not that long ago.  I recently took our 17-year-old son, a junior in HS, to his very first away from home campus visit.  The college we visited was my alma mater, Wheaton College in Wheaton , Illinois.  In fact, my husband, his father, and I all graduated from this college so our son would be a third generation student there.  It is a liberal arts Christian college that is highly selective and has an excellent reputation as not only an educational institution but also as a Conservatory of Music.

I dropped my son off with his campus host and then wandered off to stroll down memory lane.  I visited several buildings that held very dear memories — my first dorm room there (in Smith Hall), the main stairway of the oldest building on campus (Blanchard Hall) where I had my last class ever before graduation there as well as one of my very favorite classes ever, the Conservatory building where I spent many, many hours practicing/studying/going to classes, and finally Pierce Chapel  where the women’s choir rehearsed.

I was extremely surprised and excited to see my “old” choir director, Dr. Mary Hopper, there in the Pierce Chapel rehearsal space getting things set up to do a clinic with a visiting HS women’s choir.  She gave me a quick hug and a hello, and we shared a few speedy reminiscences.  I exclaimed over how much more beautiful the space is now than it was when I was a student there.  The stage had been refurbished with a new floor, new paint, new stage curtains, new risers, etc.  It looked fabulous.

In a few minutes a large group of young women arrived.  As they started to sing a round for their warmup (Jubilate Deo by Praetorius) tears started to fill my eyes.  Memories came flooding back of the hours I spent singing in that space with the wonderful women in Women’s Chorale with our very talented director.  My mind filled with memories of concerts, Christmas Festivals, of tours throughout many US states, one overseas tour in several European countries, memories of songs and emotions, and of the SOUND of women’s voices singing beautifully together.

I listened and enjoyed the lovely music and memories.

More tears of joy flowed just a little later that day.

As a Christian college, Wheaton has always had required chapel attendance on certain days of the week.  The whole student body gathers in Edman Chapel.  On this campus connection day, we heard from a very special guest — the author of a new book about C.S. LewisAlister McGrathhttp://alistermcgrath.weebly.com/

As the students stood for the invocation (and again for the benediction) tears sprang to my eyes.  Again, I was reminded of many exceptional speakers, singing hymns (with a pipe organ and 2000 people who can sing!), and of many concerts sung in that lovely chapel.  I remembered the very first time I walked into Edman Chapel.  I had a very strong feeling that this was where I belonged.  I very strong sense of “home.”

This day happened to be the day my family had to make a huge decision about whether or not to accept a new job offer that would cause us to move across the state to a new city after living in the same place for 17 years.  I believe that being in this place on this day helped me immensely with this decision.  I felt the presence of God here as a student and I felt it again there this day as an adult, a mother, an alumnae.  I was reminded of the very strong foundation of faith, learning and personal growth I acquired not only at Wheaton but in every stage and in every major decision in my live.  I walked by faith then, and I still do.

The tears helped me remember that.

Jubilate deo.  Sing Joy to God!  Amen.

Aside:  Wheaton College is home to the Wade Collection.  http://www.wheaton.edu/wadecenter/Welcome/Museum  Permanent pieces on display in the museum include: a wardrobe owned by C.S. Lewis, desks and pens belonging to C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, bookshelves from Charles Williams, the eyeglasses of Dorothy L. Sayers, and Owen Barfield‘s chess set and pipe.

My son now thinks everyone at Wheaton is obsessed with C.S. Lewis because of the Wade Collection museum, the chapel speaker, and my fascination with Lewis’s writings.  Oh, well.

Writing this reminded me of a few other very memorable events with tears of joy.  I will write about those soon.

Daily Prompt Tears of Joy

Be a good neighbor.

image by The Infatuated via Flickr CC
image by The Infatuated via Flickr CC

Our elderly neighbor just brought a newspaper clipping and a plate of WARM chocolate chip cookies to my door. She said she appreciates the help we give her by clearing her sidewalk and driveway when it snows.

I gave her a hug and a hearty thank you. She said, “Thank you for being a good neighbor.” Tears sprang into my eyes.  I choked back the tears as I tried to squeeze out the words to explain why I was crying.

I’m not sure she understood. I think she was more than a little surprised by my tears. Those who know me well are not surprised by the tears, though!

I decided to use this, my very first blog post, to reflect on those tears.

Today is the 1 year anniversary of the day my dad died. He was the youngest of 8 children and was born just a couple of years after the Depression hit. He always felt not quite good enough. He felt that he was from the “wrong side of the tracks.” His brothers and sisters were all “smart as a tack” and loved to laugh and eat. Most of all, they loved each other and the whole family, too.

When he died last year, he was the last of the original Sligers. I have thought about him all day today sitting around in heaven somewhere with all those people and with other friends from long ago — shooting the breeze and laughing their heads off.

The Sliger family rules, according to my Aunt Ruthie (who died a little over 7 years ago) were simple and few:

  • Always vote.
  • Be a good neighbor.

The unspoken rules were there too:

  • Go to the hospital and stay there when someone you love is there.
  • Home made food is best.
  • Love your family no matter what.

So when my neighbor brought me these warm chocolate chip cookies on this cold grey February day and said I was a good neighbor, the tears started to flow because I know my dad (and the whole Sliger bunch for that matter!) are all very proud of me.

I think those tears were not just simple tears.  They were —

Tears of thankfulness
for this wonderful life that I’ve had and have

Tears of sadness that so many people I love
are no longer here on earth,

Tears of faith that I know they are healthy,
happy and whole
(and together with Jesus!)

Tears of love, sorrow, and joy.