Sunday, February 14, 2021

What Do You Have that You Did Not Receive?




I don't remember exactly when I fell in love with cellos. But it was a long time ago.
It was the sound. The lower register, the smoothness, the beautiful way they somehow seemed to sound more like a human voice than any other instrument,
as far as I could tell, anyway.




And the more I went to the symphony and saw them,
the more I began to notice how beautiful they were to look at,
as all the string instruments were.
But something about their size made them the "just right" place
for that beauty--not too big, not too small, but just right.
They are human sized, as well as human sounding.

And so, many years ago, my beloved and I decided that someday we would get a cello.
I would learn to play it first, with hopes that he would too one day.
(But first he would learn piano, and we would play duets together.)

Someday. Someday.
After this degree, when I'm not working so much, after this crisis, after that surgery.
After the other surgery, after the move, after we get settled.
Someday.




Well, today was that someday.
He did it for my birthday, a few days ago.
We went up there together, met with the man with the cellos,
had a little introduction, heard the lovely sounds, chose the darker colored one with the greater resonance, signed the papers, and walked out with a cello.

A cello which is purely a gift from a man who loves me.
There are a lot of things we don't have in common. We're pretty seriously different.
But we both love beautiful music, and he decided to make a dream come true.

The longer I live, the more often I think of the speech given when I graduated,
the counseling degree graduation, a seminary counseling degree,
so the speech wasn't "you are amazing and can do anything,"
but instead was "What do you have that you did not receive?"
It was about gratitude, about a realistic perspective that everything is a gift--
life itself, with everything it includes.
(As the billboards in Memphis remind us, No One Gets a Diploma Alone.)
Well, I sure didn't get this cello alone.
It's a birthday gift from my husband.

It's also, in a very real way, a birth-day gift from my mother.
My mother, who was born on this very day many years ago
and who gave birth to me
and who is not now here to see or hear this cello.

But she is surely the reason I love music.
She is the reason we grew up experiencing singing as a normal part of life.
The reason I knew the notes on the piano before ever taking a piano lesson.
The reason I "had an ear" for music.
Without all that, who knows if I would have played piano or loved the symphony?
Would I have spent money on my first record, Pachelbel and Fasch pieces?
Would I have sung in choruses that let me be on stage with the symphony,
adding to my love of those cellos that I saw up close and personal?





I never knew before today that a cello has a heart.
Maybe that's why it sounds so human.
I guess that the other string instruments also have this feature, so that's likely not accurate.
But it's still a lovely thing, to see this little heart shape carved into the wood of the bridge.

I've loved cellos for a long time.
And now it kind of feels like this cello is loving me.
It's going to be a challenge, learning to play it. Humbling, without doubt.
But I think it will help to look down the strings and see that little heart
and to think "this is about love," and remember the ones whose love
brought this all about,
and be grateful for what I've received.

And a really wonderful thing about a cello is that it can never, ever sound quite the way
that a violin can sound in the hands of a beginner!
I tried that over thirty years ago! Eeek!

But even if not every note this cello makes will sound wonderful,
I think in its own way it will be beautiful.



Monday, January 18, 2021

The Shoulders of Giants



From what I recall being told, my grandmother was taller in her earlier years, before osteoporosis set in, than I am as an adult. You wouldn't guess it from this picture.

You also wouldn't know from this picture that she never wore a graduation gown. She wasn't able to go to college, thanks to the Great Depression and financial struggles it caused, likely complicated by the family's house burning down and her father dying when she was ten years old.

You can't tell from this picture that she never played piano or any other musical instrument. It just wasn't part of her upbringing.

But this beloved woman--despite osteoporosis, as well as two separate broken hips, both of which she recovered from and continued living independently--was always taller than I was when it comes to strength and character.

She died on this day (January 17) eighteen years ago, and for eighteen years I have thanked God for Grandmother and prayed "help me to be like her in the ways she was like You."

She and Granddaddy paid for my early piano lessons. She always encouraged me and asked me to play for her. She cut flowers from her own yard, drove them to Arkansas, and made the flowers arrangements for my senior piano recital. And bought my dress for that occasion, too.

Granddaddy and Grandmother used to give all of us a dollar for each A on our report cards. That wasn't a primary motivation for me, but it showed that they thought it was important to work hard, and that learning about the world mattered. Grandmother was a reader, and even though she seemed to spend more time in the yard and in the kitchen than she possibly could sitting with a book, the bookshelves in the house intrigued me with Gift from the Sea, The Prophet (How I wondered about that name, Kahlil Gibran!), I'm Okay-You're Okay, and always National Geographic magazines were around.

She was never a cheerleader that I'm aware of, but she certainly was my cheerleader, and I'm sure she was the same for all my siblings and cousins. It's amazing how powerful encouraging words from her were. She remembered our interests, remembered our teachers' names, and asked about them from time to time.

She taught children's Bible classes for many, many years. Her Bible stayed on the kitchen table, and we often read from it and a devotional book before meals when it was just the two of us, not a big family gathering. Before the big family gatherings we would often sing the Doxology together. It was obvious from the wear and tear on her Bible, that it was her constant companion, a strong connecting point with the God she loved and served.

And so when I see this picture, with my arm around her shoulder, even though I'm not standing on her shoulders, I know without a doubt that I would not have graduated with that counseling degree were it not for her, nor with the DMin degree years later. I know that I would never have entered piano competitions and become a piano teacher without her influence. The last time I saw her was after a choral concert, because she always encouraged my musical endeavors.

And I am quite sure that without her faith, which saw her through heart-wrenching loss and struggles of various sorts, I would not be a person of faith. I have no idea who I would be without her, really. I'm thankful I never had to find out. She was always there, always loving and serving and giving, encouraging and teaching with words and beyond words.

"Help me to be like her in the ways she was like You." Thank you, dear God, for Grandmother, a giant in mind and spirit.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Normal

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Yesterday I was talking with a sort of mentor who has listened to me over the past couple of years, and I asked what advice he would have for me going forward, since I'm not sure how much more our lives will intersect.

His response: "I think you will regret it someday if you don't start writing. Writing something. Your blog, a book, whatever. I think you'll be sorry if you don't do more of that, get yourself back into it."

So, because I respect his thinking, nearly half a year after I wrote about the possibility and the power of always beginning anew, here I am on my blog, beginning anew.

I had started a post sometime in the time between January and now, to share the poem below as a way of expressing what this year so far has been like. After the January New Year's post, a good chunk of my free time was spent helping a special person in my life by proofing and editing their master's thesis. Once that was done, the free time was spent traveling to visit friends out of town as well as hosting a friend from out of town. Oh, and both a personal retreat and a group retreat. A pretty full month.

By the end of February it was becoming clear that life was about to be hit by the novel coronavirus, and March ushered in the reality of that with all its unsettling dynamics. I was closely watching the news coming from Italy, with daily death counts and pictures of coffins the stuff of surreality. We had beloved people in Bergamo, the hot spot, who became ill with flu symptoms.

Normal life here began closing down. I stocked up on groceries. Started seeing my clients through a screen. Learned that someone I had had lunch with the first week of March, had been exposed to people who had tested positive, so I stayed in for over two weeks straight just to be careful.



cracked gray concrete surface
Photo by Andrew Buchanan on Unsplash

Then one Sunday morning I woke and found a text message, "Croatia had an earthquake." It was March 22, and until I could get more details later that morning, I had no idea if people we knew were okay or not. We were so thankful to learn that as bad as it was, it could have been much worse. Then that same week two different friends in Croatia were hospitalized with serious problems.

March was an apocalyptic sort of time for everyone. Writers have been using that word to refer to the pandemic, not so much as an "end of time" word, but in the literal sense that an apocalypse is an unveiling of reality, pulling away the props and curtains we have in place in what we think of as normal life. We've been able to see serious cracks and crevices and crooked places as the veil has been pulled away. It's been a painful time in many ways.

In early April a very dear friend died. I'm sure I'll write more about that later.

Then near the end of May began the events that led up to the ongoing protests and all the difficult and painful realities and the accompanying emotions intertwined with that part of our country's story.

All to say that even though I had thought I'd be writing more in 2020, it was as if my mind went into survival mode. All my energy was needed to just keep taking the hits, as it were, and keep up the necessary functioning, working with clients and occasionally teaching for our class at church (via Zoom), learning to teach piano through a screen, helping a group tasked with making decisions about when and how our church might return to some kind of meeting in person. (We have not yet.)

The early days of the pandemic often took me back to Croatia, to the early days of the war in 1991. It was uncanny how many emotional memories I had during March. Of course a virus spreading around the world was very different from a war starting, but I repeatedly had intuitive flashes, my body and mind making connections back almost 30 years to those feelings of uncertainty, fear of the unknown, the hope that maybe it wouldn't be as bad as some predicted, the hard realization of how bad it could really be. The way time slowed down. The sense of isolation. Small things like the grocery store shelves emptying. Much bigger things like the wondering who would survive and who would be lost. Weeping at scenes of death coming through the media.

One night I sat at the piano and wept as I realized that it could be many months, possibly a couple of years, before I would sing in a chorus again. Certainly not the greatest suffering of the situation, but it represented so much more than what might seem to some a simple hobby.





Since the third grade, I have kept some kind of journal. It started in a little green diary with a lock and key and has gone on to fill bound books of various sizes and shapes, with rarely a week between writings, and sometimes daily writing for significant periods of time.

But for the years that I lived in Croatia, I have nothing in writing beyond letters and occasional notes in a planner that I've found in my desk there. I did no journaling for three full years.

I think the past few months have been something like those three years. The mind can only do so much, and my mind hasn't had the energy or ability to put things in writing.

"Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity," said William Wordsworth. My dear English teacher used to emphasize the importance of the "recollected in tranquillity" part of that process; one's best writing doesn't tend to come completely spontaneously, but requires some distance for reflection and a sort of absorption and assimilation. And sometimes writing at all seems to require some distance.

Perhaps I'll share one day a poem I did actually compose in those early days, before the virus had clearly arrived in our area. But for now I will share a poem by someone else. I've shared this poem with many of my clients over the years, people struggling when life events have taken them so far from what they had called normal before. I don't recall where I came across it, but since then I've learned more about its author and just love it all the more for the life behind the words.

We've all lost some of our Normal since I last wrote on this blog. I hope that anyone reading this has been able to hold on to enough Normal to keep you anchored in the midst of all the change. And I hope you'll find some courage and strength in this poem, especially when you consider the writer, whose life you can learn more about via the link at the end.


About Normal

Right now,
I don’t know what Normal is
Anymore.
That’s because Normal has been changing
So much,
So often,
Lately.
For a long while of lately.
I’d like Normal to be
Okayness.
Good health…
Emotional health,
Medical health,
Spiritual health.
I’d like Normal to be
Like that.
For now though,
I know that Normal won’t be normal
For a little while…
But somehow,
Sometime,
Even if things are not Normal,
They’ll be okay.
That’s because I believe
In the great scheme of things,
And Life.

May 2001

From the book Hope through Heartsongs, written by Mattie J.T. Stepanek, a 10-year-old “poet and peacemaker” who died from a rare form of muscular dystrophy. He started writing poems when he was five to allow his mom to “see what was inside of him” and he continued to write up until his death at age 13.

https://www.daily-journal.com/opinion/the-faith-of-mattie-stepanek/article_cbb29c1d-4af3-5ee1-89b6-5dc782705ccd.html

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Now I Begin

I thought I would sleep in on January 1st. Rudy, our dog had other ideas. He, of course, had not stayed up to midnight, and apparently he felt like 5:00 was a good time to get up the next morning. Since his getting up sometimes means "knocking" on the door to the hallway to be sure someone is aware it's breakfast time (at least by his reckoning), my morning didn't go as I had planned.

And I'm so glad. After tending to Rudy, I decided to make the most of it, lit a candle, and waited. The window in our bedroom faces east, so I turned the chair so I could face east also.


Early morning has always been my friend, but because of the trees all around and the closeness of the houses where we live, I rarely think of trying to see the sun rise, because it's just so hard to see it until it's higher in the sky and all the pretty colors have faded. And many mornings when I am up around that time, if I do look out, all I see is gray turning to blue.

But New Year's Day, as I sat there and looked, I could actually see, between the roofline of our house and the neighbors' trees, the rosy presence of the sun coming up, like a flower blossoming beyond the trees. The night's condensation on the window blurred the view, but it was perhaps more lovely for the gentle blurring.



I have been reading Fr. Timothy Gallagher's latest book, Overcoming Spiritual Discouragement, which is based on excerpts from the writing of a priest, Fr. Bruno Lanteri, who lived through the death of his mother at an early age, significant health issues that affected the choices available to him in vocation, significant setbacks in his ministry, and even arrest and exile because of Napoleon's attacks on the church during the time of the French Revolution.

We talk about making New Year's resolutions, but I think we often forget the word "resolve" that they depend on. Determination. Firm commitment. Fixedness of purpose. In the life of Fr. Lanteri, his plans and his work were interrupted in ways completely beyond his control. But rather than giving up, he began anew. And clearly the ability to come back from political exile and start over at the age he did, came from a lifetime of developing the virtue of perseverance. From the book:

Say then with boldness, "Now I begin," and go forward constantly in God's service.
Do not look back so often, because one who looks back cannot run.
And do not be content to begin only for this year.
Begin every day, because it is for every day, even for every hour of the day,
that the Lord taught us to say in the Our Father, "Forgive us our trespasses," and,
"Give us this day our daily bread."

And recognizing that sometimes we falter because of our own choices, he wrote:

If I should fall a thousand times a day, a thousand times a day I will begin again,
with new awareness of my weakness, promising God with a peaceful heart, to amend my life.
I will never think of God as if he were of our condition
and grows weary of our wavering, weakness, and negligence.
Rather, I will think of what is truly characteristic of him and what he prizes most highly,
that is, his goodness and mercy, knowing that he is a loving Father who understands our weakness, 
is patient with us, and forgives us.



The book has been such a blessing, and reading it right around the turning of the year has made it even more so.

I have several unfinished projects, unrealized ideas. New Year's has given me time to reflect on the things out of my control over the past decade (a job ending, turmoil of moving into private practice, my mom's serious health problems and death, neck pain, a nerve block, and two major surgeries, extended family crises), things within my realm of influence but still unexpected (the opportunity to do a Doctor of Ministry degree, time-consuming commitments at church), and the things that are very much my own responsibility (procrastination, sometimes plain old laziness, struggling with the addictive pull of the Internet.)

For all of these, I have found it so helpful to say, "Now I begin," no matter when I originally had the idea or started the project, and no matter how often I fall into bad old habits. It has been so helpful in moving forward and letting go of the past.

I'm so thankful I was unexpectedly awakened and had that sunrise moment. I'm thankful for Epiphany tomorrow and a continued meditation on the theme of light. And the Light.

And I'm thankful for the words of Fr. Lanteri:

Above all, I have asked the Lord to give you great courage and firm hope in God,
so that by this virtue, overcoming all discouragement 
and striving not to lose that precious time the Lord gives us,
you may attain greater good for yourself and for others,
especially since the Lord has given you so many means for this and the desire to accomplish it.



Now I begin.



Thursday, November 14, 2019

Height and Depth and Length and Letters and Love

Today I remember Mr. Wright, Ray A. Wright, my high school English teacher and friend for many years, who died on this day in 2002.

I've shared some of his poetry here before. Tonight I got out the stack of letters from him, most written when I was in college and he was at Ole Miss working on a doctorate. I hadn't looked at them in years but knew where they were and just decided to read a couple.

What a beautiful thing, that he took the time to sit and write these words to me. And took the time to read the words I wrote to him. These letters, because of their very words and because of the connection they represented, helped me through some hard times, and I imagine they will in years ahead, too.




I remember thinking how neat--that's probably the word I would have used then, even though I remember chiding myself for using that word too much!--how neat it was that his address had a 26 in it. 26 was my favorite number, the one I got on my club jersey, connecting back to high school stories, happy memories. So it was a happy coincidence that I enjoyed each time a letter came.

(And he would have gently chided me for writing that awkward sentence up there with the dashes. And then might have said, "Well, you've proven you know the rules, so you're allowed to break them. But that really is rather awkward!")




I wish I had copies of what I had written to him, what he was responding to. I wonder what music had recently brought me to tears. It happened a lot. Still does. But it would be sweet to know what he was referring to.

When I was blessed with the opportunity to sing the Prayers of Kierkegaard many years later, I know that brought tears to my eyes, for sure.





I am so thankful for the length of time this friendship stretched throughout my life, from ninth grade for a little over twenty years. And I would say it definitely made up in depth what it lacked in length. And with the memories and the letters accompanying me through the rest of my life, and with the faith we share and the goodness of the Father in heaven who "didst save us," the height and depth and length of this relationship become part of the eternal goodness of God.

During the time of his final battle with cancer, pain, and a coma, my chorus was preparing to perform Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna. I sang it with Mr. Wright in mind, and it always comes to mind this time of year, just as he always comes to mind when I hear or sing that music.

His life's light shined into my little life. May light perpetual shine upon him.


Tuesday, October 08, 2019

I Love You Truly



Today would be my grandparents' 84th anniversary! They married on October 8, 1935. All I really know about the wedding is that this song was sung. This is a copy of the music that came to me either from my mother, or from Grandmother's house, after her death. I wonder if it is the actual sheet music that someone used for their wedding ceremony?

They were married for 54 years, actually. Granddaddy was twelve years older than Grandmother, and he died almost exactly 30 years ago, strange as that seems. It will be 30 years on November 6.

If you know this song, you know it's kind of hopelessly romantic. At least it seems so to me, implying that sorrows and fears can fade away simply by being in the presence of the one you love. Maybe it's the music that makes it seem hopelessly romantic, or maybe it's being calloused to love songs by all the ones written in more recent decades, that definitely have a superficial approach to love and give too much importance to emotions and even physiological feelings.

But when I think that this song was written at the literal turn of the century, before the sixties and the triumph of feelings and individualism; and when I read on Wikipedia that Carrie Jacobs-Bond painted china and rented out rooms to make ends meet, and wrote songs to supplement her husband's income; I think maybe she had a deeper kind of love in mind than much of what winds up in love songs these days.

And when I think of my grandparents' marriage, I know that they loved each other truly. Their love didn't do away with sorrows and fear. They married during the Great Depression. Granddaddy's brother and mother died four years later, and his father died two years after that. Granddaddy struggled with bipolar disorder in a time when there wasn't much you could do for that. They had their share of sorrows and I feel sure there was fear mixed in. But their love--not just for each other, but love for God and family as well as for each other--gave them what it took to face the fear and to survive the sorrow.

And I am so thankful that they did. Their marriage led to my mom's coming into the world, as seen below, and eventually to my being here. And all my siblings and their families, and my cousins and their families....we are all here because two people loved each other truly.

It's amazing what love can do, what people can overcome. And the good that can come into the world because of that faithful, persevering love. I'm thankful for my grandparents. I love them truly.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Morning in Medimurje

[This is a continuation from the last post, which I wrote much closer in time to the other one, but life events kept me from posting it....but in case you need a refresher, or are a new read and have no clue, I was writing about our trip to Croatia in late spring.]

From Munich we flew to Zagreb, where a good friend met us at the airport and drove us the circa hour and a half to....home. Because oddly enough, we travel from home to home when we make this trip.

In fact, on our last trip, I took this little sign and left it there just to add a touch of homey to the house there. And you can't see it, but next to the muesli (which I took with me this time) and on the other side of the little boxes of tea there, I had left a box of cereal when we were there in November, and it was still within the expiration date and ready to eat.


So in some ways it just felt like walking into normal.




The house there looks very much like many other houses in Croatia with its light facade and terra cotta roof, its fence along the front of the property. Like many others, it has flowers in front and fruit trees and vegetables further back. It has the ingenious metal blinds ("roleta") that aren't aesthetically lovely as wooden shutters but are amazing for having a dark bedroom at night or letting in just the right amount of light during the day.




Red clover was in bloom, which is also a very normal thing, but not too far from our house, set in the midst of this particular patch of clover, stands a reminder that "normal" varies quite a lot from place to place.





I walk by it just about every morning when we are there, as it's just off the street that leads out into the fields where I like to walk. It's an old chapel, built in the 14th century. You can read a bit more about it here and also here. Before an earthquake hit, a much larger complex stood here, a church and monastery. Now only the chapel remains, and I'm so glad it survived. I would love to go inside one day and see the frescoes. It belongs to the city museum and it always locked, but I think surely you can make an appointment to see it? After almost 30 years of standing an looking at it from the outside, I imagine going inside will feel something like a dream come true for me!




The shorter construction to the right covers an area where excavation has been done in the last 20 years. The local story says that this chapel is connected to the castle in the center of town by a tunnel that served as an escape route in case the castle were ever attacked. No one seems to know if such an escape ever was necessary, and I imagine the time, energy, and money it would take to try to excavate the entire route to prove the tunnel's existence is simply not worth it. But underneath that dwarfish little shelter, you can see what is obviously the end of some kind of tunnel going somewhere. It's really fascinating.

I just found a photograph of the chapel, near the end of this long article, taken in 1921. Someday maybe I'll be capable of reading something like that, but for now it's just amazing to me to see an actual photograph of that chapel taken when my grandmother was a little girl growing up in far-off Tennessee....and to think that when the chapel was built Dante was probably living and writing in not so far away Italy.

I learned on this trip that local legend includes a story about a dragon that is also connected to this tunnel story. Somehow I think the tunnel is more likely to exist than the dragon....

Sometimes I think about these things on my morning walks there. And sometimes I just stare at the red clover and listen to the birds singing.

(About the title: Medimurje is the name of the region. I love the name, as it means "between the rivers," and so makes me think of Mesopotamia and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and so much that comes from that.)



Monday, July 15, 2019

O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing

So, here is what you see outside the room I wrote about last time. I will always remember the first time I saw this sign over a decade ago and followed the arrow, intrigued.



It's impossible to describe in words what it's like to walk from the hustle and bustle of the airport, the constant movement and noise, into the quiet place that sign points to. It's such a welcome and unexpected contrast. We get so used to functioning in noise and tuning it out to the extent we can, that to walk into, and then sit in, such deep silence, causes the body and mind and spirit to move into a different realm of perception.

It takes a moment to adjust, and then you begin to notice things around you and within you that you simply would not have noticed, could not have noticed, with the noise.

This was the first time I noticed these hymnbooks on the shelf near the entrance. Maybe they were there before, but I had not seen them. Again intrigued, I picked one up and opened it.





And it's not possible to put in words either the sense of "walking into" that hymnbook. We were far from home, in a country where neither of us has lived, on a continent that has largely forgotten the faith that once infused its history, literature, architecture, ethics, and sense of identity.

So to sit in that place, open this book, and see hymns that I grew up singing in church was just a lovely surprise. This is even the same tune we used with this text when we sang it in church.




And then to see it written out in so many languages, and to know that people have been singing it in different countries (or else why would it have been included?) for many years, expressing the same thoughts and beliefs, even though their languages and cultures and histories and habits were not the same, just filled me with a beautiful sense of connectedness. I didn't feel so far from home.

Especially because we had this sung at our wedding, with its other tune, known as Hyfrydol.






This one started off with the Italian, at least on this page.



And here it begins in English. They included so many languages that they printed the music more than once for readability because they wouldn't all fit on one opening.




We also had this song at our wedding.



And we did not have this one at our wedding, which will surprise no one, probably, but it was one of my favorites growing up.

And eventually our time in the prayer room ended, and the journey continued.


Saturday, June 29, 2019

Airport Adventures: May the Lord Go Before You



It may be a new record, going over six months without putting anything on my blog. Certainly not a record I intended to set.

Maybe reading the book Digital Minimalism affected me more than I realized. I did not determine not to write on my blog, but I was enjoying the intentional space between me and the screen as a result of reading that book (which I haven't yet finished, but do recommend.) It wouldn't surprise me if at some level that book was a factor.

But I think it had as much or more to do with a couple of different health issues that meant extra appointments over several months. And a couple of major house repair/renewal projects that interrupted life significantly. And singing in a couple of different choruses over the spring, which meant two rehearsals each week for a good bit of the time. Oh, and two out of town conferences that took me far away from home. (Don't they say good things come in pairs?)

Whatever the reason, here I am again. Determined to share some pictures and do a bit of writing about our recent travel to Croatia.

The picture above is from a booklet I found in the Munich airport, in the "Raum fur Stille und Gebet," or "Space for Prayer and Silence," a lovely small secluded area  which "invites people from all over the world to pray in silence, to calm down, and to draw new strength," as the website says. And it must have some amazing insulation, because when you get in there, it is completely quiet. You'd never imagine you were in a bustling, noisy airport if you didn't already know that.

I've written about it before here, and since that first visit have been there a few times. This is the first time I had seen the little prayer booklet, with this lovely prayer written in ten languages. It was a wonderful way to be welcomed onto the European continent and to begin our visit there.

I know I've seen a chapel in at least one other airport, somewhere in the States, but I can't recall where it was. I wonder if any of my readers have ever found a chapel in an airport? And how many have wished they could?

And I just found the most amazing thing. An entire history of this place, with photos from the architect's designs to the woods where they found the tree, and how they moved it into the airport. Fascinating. Now I just need to learn to read German beyond my single college semester level! (If you decide to check out that link, just know that there are a couple of blank pages after the initial title page. then it's full of pictures.)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

God's Grandeur

I was sitting out on the deck just now in the freezing cold, working to find a position comfortable enough for my neck that I could remain in it for a while. The neck part because I've been cautioned by surgeon and physical therapist that I simply should not look up too much. (Not sure whether I'll ever try to visit the Sistine Chapel....)

But the whole reason for being out there is because the moon is in the act of being eclipsed even as I sit here and write. I couldn't take the cold too much longer, so I came in for a break before returning in a bit.

This morning in our Sunday Bible class, the theme was how the Creation is a witness to faith in God, looking at Hebrews 11 : By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.

In the context of discussion, a class member mentioned that the eclipse would happen tonight, and I'm so glad he did, because though I had seen something about it earlier, I had forgotten.

Sitting out there just now, besides noticing the moon, and noticing that it was very cold (the thermometer says 26 degrees), I couldn't help noticing how clear the air was and how brightly the stars shone, something I haven't seen in a long time. It was beautiful. I wanted so much to be able to stay there, but I couldn't.

…..Well, I left and I'm back. And while I was out there, I had the idea of bringing my grandmother's rocking chair out to the deck. It couldn't hurt the chair, and it would let me lean back enough to see the moon and to have support for my neck. So I came back in and got the chair and watched the rest of the veiling of the moon more comfortably.

And the whole little experience brought to mind evenings at Grandmother's house when we would have finished washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen, maybe preparing something for the next day's deliciousness, maybe watching the news or something worthwhile on TV. And at some point Grandmother would say, "Let's go sit outside for a while."

And we would do that. Take a couple of folding chairs (or more than a couple if there were more people) out the back door to simply sit outside on the driveway, with the backyard before us and the whole sky above us. It was always warmer weather, so we might hear a symphony of cicadas or see lightning bugs blinking in the yard around us. With or without those, there was always the wonderful smell of being outside and the vast sky above and whatever stars we could see.

I don't have specific memories of conversations during those times. It wouldn't surprise me if we may have sung once or twice. "Can you count the stars of evening that are shining in the sky?" I really don't recall what we talked about, or even that talking was much a part of it. I was not generally a big talker if someone else didn't start it off, and what I do remember is sitting there quietly at the end of a day, feeling such a sense of togetherness as we absorbed the beauty of the night.

Oh, and I do remember something specific. Grandmother bought a moonflower vine and planted it right out there by the back door so that she could look at it in the evenings. And smell its wonderful scent. I do remember talking about that and going over to admire it.

The moon, the stars, the rocking chair, the sun and earth all part of a beautiful moment tied to other beautiful moments. What a gift to have minds and hearts capable of perceiving, remembering, connecting, feeling, loving. Tonight is a full moon, and a full heart.

And I think of St. Francis, from class earlier today.

All Praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
     in the heavens you have made them,
     bright, and precious, and fair.