Thursday, May 31, 2007

What a Day!

Yesterday was a full day for me. In our pre-meeting for today's Management Review - yes, I just admitted to participating in a pre-meeting - I fielded lots of questions. Meanwhile, I'd been given a pressing task that absolutely had to be completed by the end of the day. Sitting in the conference room, with managers talking around me and firing questions at me, I just could not concentrate. Finally, late in the day, I moved back to my guest cubicle, put on my headphones, and listened to a calming collection of sacred music to help me focus on that task. And when I heard someone approach to open a conversation in a nearby cubicle, I'd start singing along softly - just my subtle way of saying, "Leave me alone." :-)

At lunchtime yesterday, I escaped to On the Border at the Reston Town Center to meet a fellow blogger. It was great to meet him for the first time, after corresponding for several months and learning that I'd driven past his parish four different times on my way from our office to the ODU distance-learning center up here. We had a great talk, and though we come from different perspectives, shared our sadness at the way our beloved church is tearing itself apart. It was nice to recognize our different perspectives, but acknowledge that all of us are needed in the body of Christ.

And for dinner last night, I met three long-time friends (and three accompanying family members) from the Magdalen email list community. We had a great meal and wonderful conversation, and it was so great to finally meet these people I've known for years. At least one of the three friends is someone I've known since 1997, but had never met face to face. We've been members of spiritual online communities together since then. It's amazing how the internet can bring people together in this way, especially since I came to Northern Virginia for business, and took advantage of the opportunity to meet friends while here.

When I got back to my room after dinner, I was exhausted! For an introvert, six hours in the conference room, plus a blogmeet and a listmeet - this was quite a full day! Today I'm participating in the management review, and have been relieved that the executives aren't in the room with us this month as we iron out some tough issues. As tiring as this week is for me, I really enjoy being part of these sessions, helping the managers understand their numbers, digging into the data to unearth answers to questions that bubble to the surface. I've been told by more than one person that I work very well as a "right hand man" - that I'm gifted at being the person behind the one in the spotlight, who knows where all the information is, who knows how to make the right stuff happen, who comes through to make the leader look successful in front of his or her bosses or customers or employees. And that's what this week is about for me - giving the managers the support they need to look successful in front of program management and the executives.

So thankfulness, gratitude... I'm thankful to be working in my role right now, as hard as it can be to define and explain. I'm thankful to have a supportive boss, and to support internal customers who show appreciation to me. I'm glad to be able to have the opportunity to come up here once a month to meet with my teammates and to get some face-time in front of my boss and executive management (scary as that can be sometimes). I'm grateful to be able to meet some of the friends who have been the companions on my journey over the last ten years.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Busy Week

I'm not sure how well I'll keep up with the blog this week. Life continues to be crazy, and this week I'm in northern Virginia at the monthly Program Management Review. Since I'm responsible for reporting revenue, I get to spend three days in a conference room with managers in the room, on the phone, and on the web conference, reviewing budgets and profit/loss statements, and reporting on trends and forecasts and new accomplishments over the month. What joy! What fun! What... oh, who am I kidding? You already know I'm an introvert! But I know this is one of those things that is Good For Me, and I do actually enjoy it, even though it exhausts me. Right now I'm listening to my second conference call of the day, and have been answering questions from various directions all afternoon.

I'm also becoming very aware of the marks that all the busy-ness and stress have been leaving on my body. Yes, the shoulder has its issues, and the pain flares worse when I'm stressed. I also have a muscle spasming at my left jawline, causing pain, ringing, and a full sensation in that ear. There's a muscle spasm going on in my left hip joint, which hurts when I sit too long or stand in funny positions. And yesterday, the muscle across the back of my skull started to spasm as well. Yes, not only is there a muscle across the back of your skull, but it can cause excruciating pain when it spasms! I experienced this a few years ago, was diagnosed with intractable migraine, and given all sorts of injections and pills before finally getting a massage. So on arrival in northern Virginia, first thing after setting up my laptop, I found a nearby massage therapy center and called in desperation for an appointment. I can't WAIT.

Tomorrow, I have two exciting things on my schedule. First, I'm meeting DaddyRob for lunch, and then at dinner, I'm meeting several friends from Magdalen and OSM. I'm very excited about both! I think this will make seven online friends whom I've never before met - plus one I've met exactly once, about eight years ago - all in one big day. And those discussions should be much more interesting than all the leveraging and utilizing and facilitating in the conference room all day. :-)

Monday, May 28, 2007


Happy Pentecost! I'll admit that I'm not quite ready to give up all of the Easter alleluias, but at least I'll get to keep them in the Daily Office until next Lent. I was thinking yesterday about the image at the beginning of Genesis of the Holy Spirit sweeping - or in some translations, brooding - over the face of the waters. I have always loved to describe this as the wind dancing over the water, just as the sunlight dances over the water. I don't have anything very profound to say about this, but it reminded me of a poem I'd written years ago, and made me think about the way it ends in a new way.

Made in the Image of God
January 23, 1998

The little girl stands
on the bridge
over the calm, clear lake.
Her pigtails bouncing,
she tiptoes to reach the rail
and peeks over to see
her reflection in the water.
She giggles to see the moon
right there, over her shoulder,
and the stars
dancing about her head like a sparkly tiara,
and as she giggles
she shakes her head,
wiggling the curly pigtails
with their pink ribbons
to make the stars twinkle and dance
in her hair.
The breeze kisses her cheeks
then dips to kiss the little girl
reflected in the water
with the wiggling pigtails
and the twinkling stars.
A ripple starts, and then another.
The girl on the bridge stands still
to watch the image in the water
as it jiggles and moves.
The girl bites her lip, pouting,
Because now the girl in the water
doesn’t look like her any more.
Her tiptoes are tiring,
so she bounces up and down,
watching the distorted reflection
move back and forth on the rippling water.
Another breeze whispers at her ear
and caresses the water,
with ripples and jiggles anew.
The girl stands on the bridge,
by the image she created in the water
and by how much it has changed
in just a few moments
from just the merest kiss
of the breeze.

That part there, about the breeze kissing the water... When I wrote this, I was trying to show that being made in the image of the Divine doesn't mean that we are perfect reflections of God. Far from it! But our surroundings change us, distort us, shape us, make us who we are. And yesterday, on Pentecost, remembering the Holy Spirit sweeping over the waters at creation - I thought, this breeze that is kissing the water and making ripples in the little girl's reflection - this is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes her a unique creation, an image of God that is different from any other image in the world.

Once, when asked how every person can be unique when we're all made in the image of God, I offered the picture of a disco ball, covered with mirrors at every angle. The room surrounding it is the same, but each mirror shows a different image of the room, just as each of us shows a slightly different image of God.

So this week (since I missed blogging on the day of Pentecost itself), I hope that you will feel the kiss of the breeze of the Holy Spirit on you, that you will know that you are a unique and wonderful being, made in the image of God. I wish for you deep confidence and certainty that God the Holy Spirit is at work in your life, shaping you and making you unique, just as God the Father and Mother is holding you in God's hands, and Jesus the Son is tenderly watching over you and protecting you. And next Sunday, when we celebrate the Trinity, may you feel loved, comforted, and known by God in all God's aspects.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Sunday Poem

The Lord's Prayer

          And now,
          as our savior Christ has taught us,
          we are bold to say:

A chubby hand reaches for mine
and curls around my index finger.
A timid voice follows the cadence of the prayer,
though unfamiliar with the words.

          Our Father, who art in heaven
          hallowed be thy name.

My left index finger is claimed by a small hand,
my right hand held firmly
and swung exuberantly to the pulse of the prayer.

          Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
          on earth as it is in heaven.

I reach for a hand,
because the little one does not know it is time,
and my third grader will not touch me
in this great moment of powerful unity,
because of a slight I have committed this morn.

          Give us this day our daily bread,
          and forgive us our trespasses
          as we forgive those who trespass against us.

All four small hands are behind the organ,
wiggling and giggling
with the other children in their choir robes.
There is no hand for me to hold,
so I clutch my book,
close my eyes,
and lift my face to God.

          And lead us not into temptation,
          but deliver us from evil.

The hands are no longer little;
my son's now dwarf my own.
The people behind those hands
are too smart for church now,
too cool for God,
perhaps too aware of their weakness,
sin --
the very reasons I am here.
The lady to my left is sweet,
and the couple in the pew to my right is nice,
but will they hold my hand?
Me --
keenly alone,
in this great moment of powerful unity?

          For thine is the kingdom,
          and the power,
          and the glory,
          for ever and ever.


Saturday, May 19, 2007


I have been a terrible blogger this week - not posting anything since Monday - and not keeping up with my spiritual discipline. There are many things to be grateful for, especially as full as this week has been for me.

Let me just tell you about the last few days, and you'll get a feel for the pace I've been keeping. On Thursday, I attended the funeral of a friend, at a very large parish in Norfolk. I learned that there were over 600 attendees, and somehow with four communion stations, we still got through pretty quickly. The liturgy was lovely, as I had expected; the homily was stirring and funny, which was very appropriate; the music was beautiful and engaging. The final hymn was For All the Saints - all eight verses. I don't think I've ever sung all eight verses before - whew! As much as I love that hymn, by the end of the eighth verse, I was pretty much ready for it to be over.

As we all walked out to the courtyard for the interment in the columbarium, the lady next to whom I'd been sitting edged over to me and said, "I just have to say thank you for sitting next to me today. Your voice is lovely, and it was so wonderful to hear you sing. Thank you!" I was floored. I love to sing, and I sing all the time, and I'm not terrible at it. But my voice? I know I don't have a great voice, and I've gotten this feedback many times before. It works just fine in a choir, but... just me? Just my voice? Nah... And yet, this was at least the third time in the last month or so that someone has made a point of telling me I have a lovely voice. I'm sensing a pattern here, and I'm thankful for it.

Thursday also happened to be the Feast of the Ascension, and my home parish had a solemn choral evensong to celebrate. We sang some wonderful music - pretty hymns, a nice setting of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, not to mention, of course, chanting the psalm and prayers - and the orison we sang was a heavenly song by John Rutter. It was transporting, and as tired as I already had been, I'm so glad I went.

Friday afternoon, I had a wedding rehearsal in Nags Head, North Carolina, about two hours from home. The church was a pretty, intimate space, very bright and uplifting. I was the only musician there, and I filled the space pretty well with my flute. The bride's family had paid for my hotel room, and I had a second-floor room with a balcony and an ocean view. This morning, I opened my curtains very early so that I could watch the sun rise over the ocean and the dunes. It was beautiful. I had to check out of my room by 11 this morning, but the wedding was not until 4. This meant I had to be all dressed and ready, but then amuse myself for several hours without getting dirty or sweaty or tired. I relaxed and read and enjoyed the sunshine and the breezes, and at about 3, I headed back to the church to get set up and ready to play music while the guests arrived and got settled. The ceremony was simple and lovely, modeled on evening prayer. But as much as I enjoy playing music at weddings, I was ready to get back on the road headed home.

Sunday morning, I'm singing in the choir, and have a volunteer shift with my daughter at the Norfolk Botanical Garden right after church. I think it will feel restful to get back to the office on Monday, though I already have, quite literally, a dozen items on my to-do list.

So between all the busy-ness, I know that there is much to be thankful for and happy about - singing, playing my flute, worshiping (four times in four days, no less!), having a change of scenery for a day, watching a young couple embark on a new journey together, seeing the community come together to bid farewell to a wonderful man, returning home to rest and peace. Thanks be to God, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Rosy Red Cheeks, Joyful Smile

When I came downstairs yesterday morning, I found this poem hung on the wall for me, from my son. (Lest my daughter feel left out, she had made me a heart keychain from beads, but I don't have a photo of it to post.)

Rosy Red Cheeks, Joyful Smile

It's Mothers' Day,
And I forgot to get something!
I hope Mom
Won't be too mad.
I don't like to disappoint her,
And her frown makes me sad.
Oh no!
Here she comes!
Look at her face,
As she comes down the stairs.
Rosy Red Cheeks,
And Joyful smile.
I know what to do for her,
and I know she will be glad.

Today, as every day, I am thankful for my children. They are quite a gift, entrusted to my hands by God, and I pray every day that I can live up to that trust and not mess them up too badly. :-) I shared with a friend recently that we are all messed up by our parents, despite their best and most loving efforts. And we all mess up our own children, though usually not in the ways we expect. But despite all the messiness, I love my mom, and I love my kids, and I know that love is shared.

Friday, May 11, 2007


It happens all the time, but somehow it never fails to surprise me when I'm heading merrily down the path I've chosen, and I get whacked in the back of the head with the cosmic two-by-four.

Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post has been near the top of my list of favorite writers for a couple years now. He's written some fabulous pieces, and while I don't always get to them in real-time, I never miss his weekly chats. His column for this Sunday is incredible. Don't miss it. I wanted to clip out a segment, to give you a taste, but I find that I just can't. Go read it.

Whack! Two-by-four! I know Mr. Weingarten would not approve of my metaphor, as he is firmly not in the God camp. But I'll bet he's had the cosmic two-by-four experience many times before, even if he wouldn't call it that. They seem to be part of the human condition. I will say that, among all the other things that are good in this world, I'm thankful for Gene Weingarten and his writing.

Friday Five: Potato, Po-tah-to Edition

Today's Friday Five on RevGals is a fun one. Of course, being an Anglican, there are some I can't answer either/or, because I must take the via media. But there are others on which I have a distinct preference. So here we go...

1. Mac? (woo-hoo!) or PC? (boo!)
Why yes, the Friday Five author reserves the right to editorialize!

Well, I use a PC, but I'd really like a nice, sexy Linux box. :-)

2. Pizza: Chicago style luscious hearty goodness, or New York floppy and flaccid?

This one depends on my mood... sometimes I like the deep dish, and sometimes I like a really thin, crispy crust. So I'll have to take the middle road on this one... again!

3. Brownies/fudge containing nuts:
a) Good. I like the variation in texture.
b) An abomination unto the Lord. The nuts take up valuable chocolate space.

I love nuts (Okay, stop giggling! I know I never grew up past about 13, but I thought that you had!), and I love good walnuts or pecans in brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Fudge tends to be too rich for me these days, but I looooooooooove peanut butter fudge. Yum!

4. Do you hang your toilet paper so that the "tail" hangs flush with the wall, or over the top of the roll like normal people do?

Definitely over the top like normal people. It may be the only normal thing about me! :-)

5. Toothpaste: Do you squeeze the tube wantonly in the middle, or squeeze from the bottom and flatten as you go just like the tube instructs?

This is a neverending source of frustration and fun in my household, because I'm apparently the only one who reads the directions. :-) So I go around, "fixing" the toothpaste tubes so that they're properly flattened from the bottom, and they all look at me like I'm crazy.

Bonus: Share your favorite either/or.

Okay, some fun ones...
  • Morning person vs. night owl? Morning person, definitely. But, when I'm not getting enough sleep, I'm cranky all the time.
  • Red Sox vs. Yankees? No: Phillies. Philadelphia was the only place I've lived (discounting New Orleans, because the Saints really don't count) that had pro sports, and they have NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL. So even though I don't really follow sports, my ears perk up when I hear the name of a Philadelphia team.
  • Spike or snakebelly? I'm leaning more toward high church lately, as much as it can be found in southern Virginia. Those high church touches really feed me these days.
  • Creamy vs. crunchy? Crunchy. But it's not a ditch I'll die in, so there's usually just creamy on hand. I just sometimes get the craving for that crunchy goodness.
  • Hot or cold? I would always always always rather be too chilly than too hot. I like snuggling up in sweaters and blankets, but heat makes me wilt. Heat plus the nasty humidity we get here is just miserable.
This was a fun play! Thank you, ReverendMother!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Number 100

This will be the one-hundredth post on this blog, which is somewhat mind-boggling to me. Even though I'd intended to keep up with the discipline of practicing gratitude every day, I suspected that I wouldn't be able to sustain it for very long. But I created this blog in early February, and have been posting more-or-less faithfully over the last three months. The generous support and comments from all of you have been wonderful and inspiring, and I am grateful to each of you who comes by to listen to me ramble on. I wanted to post something special for the big One-Oh-Oh, but drew a blank. I was going to go with some intentional silliness, but that's not where I am today, either. For kicks ('cause yes, I'm a strange sort of gal), I went and looked at the readings for this Sunday, and found some really great stuff there that I'd like to reflect on.

The first thing I noticed was the earthiness in the psalm, in the alternate gospel lesson from John, and in the reading from Revelation. The word earth appears in the psalm three times, and the imagery there is beautiful. God's light is shining on the earth, and that allows the earth to bring forth all of her marvelous fruits. What sang for me in this is the metaphor: God's blessing is shining on us, on God's beloved children, illuminating us and warming us, and allowing us to bring forth our own marvelous fruits.

This is all reflected in the Revelation passage - God's light fills the holy city, the city high on a mountain, with a river flowing from it. If you've been reading very long, you know how powerful the river image is for me. So this image of the river of life, clear as crystal, flowing down from the city absolutely captivates me. I can feel the cool, clear water on my skin, on my lips, in my mouth. This is the very source of the living water that Jesus pours out for us. I can see the light dancing and sparkling over the surface of the river as it flows out of the city and into the countryside.

I see the tree of life on the bank of the river. It is tall and broad and strong. The bark is gnarled and bumpy, because life is gnarled and bumpy, not smooth and perfect and straight. The limbs are straight here, forked there, bent and crooked over there. The leaves shine with reflected light. They are green and lovely, peaceful and healing. As the breeze skips and dances across the river, it rustles through the leaves, and they sing for joy. And the fruits of the tree of life - they are round and ripe and perfect, bursting with sweetness and potential.

And in John, we see the man who tries so hard to get to the pool to be healed, who wants to immerse himself in the river of life, or such poor an imitation as we have in this world. In this story, he still doesn't make it into the pool, because Jesus pours out the living water with his words: Stand up, take your mat, and walk. On this earth, next to the rivers and trees that we have, stand up and walk.

Standing up is a powerful thing. We talk about standing up for ourselves, standing up to authority. When I studied music in college, before one recital, a professor spent some time talking with us about standing. She reflected on placing your feet just so, so that you were connected to the earth and could feel the energy coming from the earth into your body, expressing it in your music, and letting the energy reflected back at you from the other performers and the audience flow back through your body and into the earth again, to complete the cycle. Each time I perform, before it is time to start, I ground myself - connect myself to the earth - in just this way. I stand up. I take my flute. And I walk through the music, connected with the earth, with the people around me, with God, with all the music that has ever been played or sung. It is similar in prayer, and sings for me particularly when we say the Creed each week. We stand up, all together. We take our books. And we walk through the words that have sustained our church for centuries. And I feel very powerfully the connection to the earth, the divine energy flowing into me, through me, and returning to the earth. I feel the connection with the other people in the nave with me, with all the other people worshipping that morning across the world, with the entire communion of saints.

And through those connections, through that earthiness, comes God. The gospel reading from John for this Sunday is an amazing gift from each member of the Trinity. The Father loves us - loves me, loves you - and makes a home with us. A home! The Holy Spirit teaches us and reminds us of that love. And Jesus pours out for us peace: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

This love and learning and peace - these are the lights that God is shining on us, is blessing us with. This is the light and warmth we need to grow, to become who we are, to know we are loved, to try in the smallest degree to love others and shine that light for them. These are the river - these are the living water that fills us to overflowing so that we can try, in the smallest degree, to give life to ourselves and to the people around us. These are the tree of life, the trees of us - the strong and broad and gnarled and bumpy and bent and crooked trees - on which round and ripe and perfect fruits can grow, bursting with sweetness and potential. As the collect says, these are the good things that surpass our understanding, poured into our hearts by the God who loves generously, infinitely, scandalously.

May God give us God's blessing, and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of the all-loving Divine One. And may we stand up, claim the rich blessing that is poured out for us, and walk.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Quick Happy Dance

I received a letter from Old Donation in the mail today. It was a copy of my letter of transfer from my old parish. I am now officially a member, under the spiritual care of my new parish home. (Seriously, those are the words!)

My daughter has her spring concert for chorus tonight, and my son's spring orchestra concert is tomorrow. On Thursday, I have choir, and then I have flute jobs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It is a full week of music for me. Which is good, because I need some music and beauty in my life.

Peace and joy to you all!

Monday, May 7, 2007

"Pray for the unlovely"

On a quick perusal of my stats here, I noticed that someone had visited my blog based on the search string pray for the unlovely. If you've been reading me very long, you'll know that probably my number one, all-time favorite hymn is My Song is Love Unknown, purely for the first verse:

My song is love unknown,
My Savior's love to me;
Love to the loveless
Shown that they might lovely be.

And who am I, that for my sake,
My Lord should take frail flesh and die?

Having experienced more episodes of depression than I would care to (well, one episode being more than I would care for, but I'll just say it's been more than one), I have some experience with feeling loveless, unloved, unlovely. In fact, for several years I was firmly convinced of my complete, fundamental unlovability.

Of course, this is complete hogwash. There's not a single completely unlovable person on the planet, and there never has been. Yes, there are plenty of people who are hard to love, and somehow it's really hard to love ourselves as we deserve. Sometimes it's hard to see the image of God in the people around us - especially, for some reason, the people closest to us - and it's often hard to see this in ourselves.

But I do pray for the unlovely. And my prayer isn't, "God, I'm so glad I'm not unlovely like them." Rather it is a prayer that everyone who feels unlovely will come to know how deliriously in love with them God really is, how much love is extravagantly, profigately, wastefully poured out for them. And I pray that they will come to see the love that is directed at them from others in their lives, others whom they may not even recognize. Sometimes, a kind and generous and loving remark will come out of the blue, and we think, "Wow, I had no idea!" I pray that once in a while, I will be the person making that loving remark. I pray that when I encounter someone as unlovely, that I will find that image of God within them, and that I will come to cherish and love them. (I've learned that you don't always have to like someone to love them. And that the prayer, "God help me, because I just can't love this person on my own!" may be one of the most powerful I've ever prayed.)

We're all flawed and unlovely - every last one of us - and the hard part is, we know it. But we are all loved beyond measure, treasured beyond price.

Love to the loveless?
Thank God.

Sunday, May 6, 2007


Today, in southeastern Virginia, it is very windy. My current weather information says sustained winds of 28mph, with gusts over 40mph. There are branches down all over the place, some fences and gutters falling, and I'm grateful that our power lines are buried. Breathe on me, breath of God? Okay... but does it have to be so blustery?

This morning was my first Sunday singing with the choir. I was nervous until I got there. I vested in the choir room, walked over to the nave, and settled into the loft. Listened to our organist practice some of his music while other choir members trickled in, and then we warmed up together. Until about two minutes before the service, it looked like I was going to be the only first soprano there, and one of only three sopranos there total. Then another first showed up, but she's recovering from bronchitis, so she did her best. I also learned that sopranos usually lead the procession, but not being terribly familiar with what I was supposed to do, I made someone else go in front. Not that it was difficult, but I didn't want to lead on my very first Sunday. It was heavenly, and I am so very, very thankful for coming to this parish and meeting these people and joining this choir.

Last night, my husband and I had a talk with our children, and now I can come out and say here what I've been dancing around since late March. My husband and I are separating, after almost-fifteen years of marriage. This has been a long time coming, and it has only been recently that I've been healthy and strong enough to do what I need to do for myself. It is sad, and it sucks, but that is where we are. We are discussing how to divide everything up, and are going to try for a 50/50 custody split. After the initial pain and shock and anger, I think (hope, pray) that we'll be able to do this thoughtfully, intelligently, compassionately, and maturely. (And yes, I pray these things every bit as much for myself as for my soon-to-be ex. I know I'm far from perfect, by any means.)

There is a scene in the movie Ever After, which is a retelling of the Cinderella story. After going through all kinds of horrible stuff, Danielle arrives at the ball, dressed in a white gown as an angel. And she stands at the top of the stairs, hesitating before plunging into the middle of everything, and says to herself: Just breathe. It is a purely magical moment in the movie and has always been very powerful for me. There have been many times when I've plunged forward into something without taking that little pause to just be in the moment, to just breathe. There is someone, who may just be the best friend I've ever had, who reminds me when I'm freaking out about something to just breathe. I can't tell you how powerful that advice has been. When it feels like everything is falling apart, go back to the basics. Breathe. Close your eyes. Feel your body, the skin and everything surrounding it. Take inventory of the sensations, internal and external. Inhale, exhale. And if the emotions or the thoughts are just too much, then just stay right there, just being in its pure physical form for a time.

This will be a hectic week for me. It is my busiest time of the month at work, and both children have their spring concerts on different nights this week. Choir rehearsal - of course! - and this weekend I have a wedding rehearsal, the wedding, and then a dinner to play flute at on Sunday. The following weekend, I have a wedding down on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and I'm looking forward to even that slight change of scenery for a little recharging. The thing about playing the flute, like singing, is that breathing is so important. You have to focus on your breathing, have to be intentional about it. Your breath shapes the music. This week, I will try to keep that advice in mind, to just breathe. It's good advice, and I'm grateful for it. Thank you, Friend. You know who you are!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Greatest night ever

It's taken me a couple days to settle down enough to describe this. On Thursday, I went to my first choir rehearsal at church since Christmas 2000. Being introverted, and not having the best week of my life, I was a little anxious. Okay, scratch that. I was so terrified I couldn't stop my hands from shaking. Once I dug a pencil out of my purse (must have a pencil!), I held onto it because that gave my hand something to focus on - that's how badly they were trembling.

This particular rehearsal was harder for an introvert, because wrapped up in it was a farewell celebration for a beloved choir member who had to suddenly move back to The Netherlands, and there were food, much wine and champagne, and gifts for her. Now, friendly and welcoming choir folk are one thing - friendly and welcoming choir folk after a few glasses of cheer are something else entirely! :-)

Shortly after I arrived, the rector's wife took me in hand, found me a cassock that came as close to fitting as anything ever has before - which means I only had to take it up about an inch - and found my number and showed me where to sit and all. We rejoined the festivities, for as long as I could handle the crowd, and then I wandered back in to take a look at the music. At this point, I wanted to cry. Look at how fast this one is! Look at how high this one goes! I'll never be able to sing this! But all those people were between me and the door - all those people who had welcomed me and hugged me and were so excited that I was joining them. I reminded myself how much I love to sing, how much I love harmony, how much I love making music with others. I reminded myself that we were there to serve God. I still wanted to run. Then a couple of tenors came up and introduced themselves, and I smiled and pretended to be competent and capable. (I have often found pretending to be a very important coping skill, and have often pretended myself right into being able to do something.)

Soon after, we gathered and began to sing. We reviewed the hymns first, then got into the harder stuff. And you know what? It was fun. And it was good. And while I splatted a couple of notes, I acquitted myself far better than I had feared. There was so much cheer and happiness and positivity in the room. When the soprano soloist hit her high A, everyone applauded and cheered for her, and when the bass hit his low G, everyone applauded and cheered for him. It was awesome.

And Sunday morning, I will join these new friends - of whom I can remember maybe two names! - and we will sing together. And I'll join them Thursday and Sunday, and Thursday and Sunday, and it will be very, very good. Can you tell what I'm grateful for today?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Beauty amid Interesting Times

I have been quiet for a couple days here, and when I've wanted to post, have come up against a brick wall. I wanted to write something insightful or witty or thoughtful, and send you away nodding and thinking, or shaking your head violently, or at the very least taking something away, no matter how small. But this is not why I created this blog: the original intent is to practice the spiritual discipline of gratitude, on a daily basis. Some days, it's easier to feel grateful than others, especially when one lives in the midst of Interesting Times, but I am trying to be disciplined in finding things to be grateful for, even when this is tough. It was the first discipline recommended to me by my first spiritual director, and it has been an important source of light for me in dark times. So today, amid the chaos and confusion, amid the anger and hurt and fear, I seek gratitude.

  • I am grateful for the springtime. Despite the pollen, I love sleeping with the windows wide open. Since my alarm is set for shortly after sunrise begins, the last couple nights, I've kept the curtains wide open as well. Last night, I could make out the glow of the nearly-full moon behind the trees, and it was peaceful and lovely.
  • On Saturday, I did my laundry, just like every Saturday. And Sunday morning, I'd forgotten that I had a fresh, clean towel waiting for me. When I reached for it after my shower, I pressed it to my face, and it smelled fresh and wonderful. I paused for a moment, inhaling it, luxuriating in the pure sensual pleasure of that moment. I am thankful that we are sensual beings; this is a tremendous gift from God, and I try to make the most of it by noticing all the sensory delights that God surrounds us with.
  • I am incredibly grateful to see the azaleas blooming. Azaleas grow like weeds here in southeastern Virginia, and there are places that have enormous, old azalea bushes with their riotous red and white and pink blossoms. Azaleas never fail to make me smile.
  • I am also very thankful for and to my physical therapist. Even though he makes me work hard, and even though he does some manipulations that hurt, I can feel that my shoulder is getting stronger and that he is helping me. I will have to keep up with the exercises for my entire life, but I'm very glad to be learning and doing the right things for my body.
The blessing I wish for you today, is that your eyes and ears and hands and mouth and nose will be open to all of the sensory delights that God has placed in your path. May you see beauty, hear harmony, feel peace, taste deliciousness, and smell loveliness. I pray that these delights will bring a song to your heart and a dance to your prayers, and that you will join me in deep and humble and joyful gratitude for the gorgeous Creation that has been placed in our care.