I Sang in a Chorale

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I am small, but I am there. Second row from the top, just to the right of the soloist’s head.

It’s the kind of song that sticks in my head once I start singing it, so much so, that it’s in the background as I fall asleep at night, and it’s still there when I wake up.  It was complicated to learn, but after much repetition, I’ve fallen in love with it.  It’s a chorale experience I won’t forget. The last performance was this afternoon and I’m sad because I don’t want the song to go away. I guess it’s one that’s been around for a while but this was my first meeting with it.

How Can I Keep From Singing?

My life flows on in endless song above Earth’s lamentation.

I hear the real though far off hymn that hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife I hear its music ringing.

It sounds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?

 

No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that Rock I’m clinging.

Since Love is lord of heav’n and earth, how can I keep from singing?

 

Although the tempest round me roars, I hear the truth. It liveth,

And though the darkness round me close, songs in the night it giveth.

 

My life flows on in endless song above Earth’s lamentation.

I hear the real though far off hymn that hails a new creation.

No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that Rock I’m clinging.

Since Love is lord of heav’n and earth, how can I keep from singing?

 

Singing these words, I realize how closely they express my feelings about life’s storms, about truth, about hope for the future. I do hear that “far off hymn” that says everything is going to be made new and good. I don’t believe that we are going to figure out how to do it ourselves. Don’t get me wrong – I am amazed at what we have discovered, what we can do, what we call science. But amazing as it is, the things we discover always seem to end in a question, not an answer.  We discover things that have already been put in place. Science doesn’t tell me who put things in place. My faith tells me that.

God can be mysterious, hard to understand, and his sense of timing can be annoying to me because I am a limited, fairly clueless being when it comes to knowing what time is really right.  But I am won over, just by looking at the choices in front of me. I choose God because he is a communicator – through what he’s created, the historical record of what he’s done, and the experiences he takes me through. He is all about communication when I see it for what it is.

That’s a good question – how can I keep from singing? It’s very much like the question “how can I keep from writing?” I can’t, at least not for long.  I have to respond in hope to the future as God lays it out, as he promises. My everyday life goes down in writing in these posts, mostly because of this hope. I am loved, relevant, made on purpose and designed to know God and love him back. Like a witness in a courtroom, I tell my story, usually in 600 words at a time, right here. I can’t help it.

He who was on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  The Revelation from Jesus Christ to John, chapter 21, verse 5.

 

 

Those Who Write

It has to be true, that there is nothing new under the sun, that even though we are unique, we have thoughts in common with others. That is why I love reading. It’s through reading that I learn I am not alone in my experience here on earth. Of course, I would have nothing to read were it not for those who take the time to write. I am grateful.

We have family treasures – letters from our ancestors to each other – that my mom and I were discussing recently. What an experience it is to be encouraged by words written down a century ago, by someone who had no idea who their readers would be. And it’s not that their messages were necessarily wise or well crafted. Often they were recounting the mundane ups and downs of everyday life, but in doing that, their resiliency, ingenuity, optimism, and strength of spirit were displayed. We can say “these are the people I came from”.  What is written down has power to influence.

I’m often struck with that need to communicate. I feel restless when I’ve not been writing for a while. I start feeling isolated and want to reach out somewhere. I read something this morning that resonates, sounds true. It’s Sarah Young’s interpretation of scripture in her book “Jesus Calling”.

I speak to you continually. My nature is to communicate, though not always in words. I fling glorious sunsets across the sky, day after day after day. I speak in the faces and voices of loved ones. I caress you with a gentle breeze that refreshes and delights you. I speak softly in the depths of your spirit, where I have taken up residence.

You can find me in each moment, when you have eyes that see and ears that hear. Ask My Spirit to sharpen your spiritual eyesight and hearing. I rejoice each time you discover My Presence. Practice looking and listening for Me during quiet intervals. Gradually you will find Me in more and more of your moments. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me above all else.  Psalm 8:1-4; Psalm 19:1-2; I Cor. 6:19; Jeremiah 29:13

I thank her for writing that, and I thank God for all those moments when I can “read” him so clearly. wpid-20150930_181847.jpg

Internet Bondage

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One small bar and that little shield with the exclamation point… sigh.

It’s hard to explain this title. Let me start by saying that I’m in an “internet challenged” environment for the past three days and am feeling more affected by that than I thought possible. If I had purposely gone into the wilderness and left all my devices behind, intending to drop out of communication, it would be entirely different. Reality is, I have my smart phone, my tablet, and my laptop 2-in-1 with me and had thought this time away would be a chance to write and pay attention to my blog and keep up with what’s happening at home as well. Not happening.

Frustration was birthed on the first day when I wanted to make arrangements for my trip home – an overnight motel in Minneapolis and a car from Tampa to my home in Bradenton. This took hours of re-establishing connection and watching the little spooling dots go round and round. Some pages took so long to load, I thought my computer had frozen, so I rebooted, several times.

Multiple pop-ups warned me to get off the unprotected network here at the assisted living apartment where I’m staying with Mom. I had already considered the risk of all the senior hackers that might be nearby, but there was no way to console my frantic security program.  I suppose it was because I was in a different location that all my usual web venues decided to ask for passwords that I did not have with me. Add to that the apps that ask for information leading down a 10-minute-long rabbit trail, only to tell me something at the end that was totally undecipherable. At that point there were no more drop down menus, no back buttons, no boxes for input, no hidden arrows or xs, no hope… Ah, well.

You would think that I would not want to spread this misery around, but I do like to share. I decided to get my mom a smart phone. You see,  I have an “80 something” year old mom who goes on Facebook, GroupMe, does email and daily solitaire challenges.  In spite of what she can do, she has resisted moving on from her old flip phone, claiming that she is afraid of touching the wrong button, accidentally signing up for something she doesn’t want or getting her identity stolen. These may be valid concerns but, more importantly, we want to send her pictures and texts, 24/7, whether she’s on her computer or not. She needs a smart phone.

I mentioned that I was in a somewhat remote area, remote enough that even the Walmart here does not have things other Walmarts have. There were no simple Jitterbug phones for seniors. There was however, a Verizon store in an old remodeled house. Once inside, it looked less like a bed and breakfast and more familiar, right down to the four geek people, nonchalantly waiting to sell and up-sell. An hour and a half later I left with an entry level Samsung phone and a clear promise that it could be returned within 14 days if it didn’t work out (and an Otter Box, a PureGear screen protector, an offer to join Hum which I resisted, an offer to upgrade my husband’s phone which I rejected, a suggestion that my daughter upgrade her plan which I will leave up to her,  a promise that mom could come back to the store anytime with questions, and a request for a favorable response to the survey about my “experience”). Whew!

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We will keep this prehistoric device around for a couple more days, just in case.

A day later, we are enjoying (I think) our smart phone tutorials. I was able to get all my travel reservations accomplished. I am getting used to the limitations of connectivity here. I am resigned to the things that cannot be.

In retrospect, maybe I should have used the opportunity to distance myself from the frustrating world of the web. Yeah, probably, but I didn’t. It’s becoming harder and harder to do that, even though it is, at times, a frustrating place to hang out.  I have to wrap this up now – it’s been an hour since I checked my phone.

What has the world come to? Are you ever plagued with a dependency on your “devices”? Are you able to take a break from them and tell the internet to get lost? 

 

 

 

 

Going Again: Cambodia, Night 3

Strangeness (imagine eerie music here).

Up at the computer at 3 am, may or may not be strange to you, but it is not the usual for me. I am not usually in Cambodia either, which is where I am now. Neither of those are the strangeness that I have to write about.

The strangeness is that I’ve just received a call from my realtor in Florida on my smart phone. I do not have an international calling plan, nor am I supposed to be getting calls. I normally have no phone service at all in Cambodia. I see in the corner where it usually says “NO SERVICE” it now displays “SMART”. Something new has been added, and it’s smarter than me. I wonder how much it is costing me, just sayin…

Community

That is a word to wrestle with (or, with which to wrestle, just so 6th grade English teacher doesn’t fight to get out of her coffin…).  Monday nights my email inbox fills with weekly digests of all the bloggers I have followed.  I recognize most of the names and think of something I’ve read from them that really intrigued me and gave me a reason to push the follow button.  I try to always have a reason. 

Yesterday, which was a Tuesday, I settled down to read and interact.  I know this is essential to being part of the community and I want to do it.  I got as far as the first site and ended up reading several long, thoughtful posts.  And then it was time to quit reading and interact with some housework and a doctor’s appointment.

This happens so much of the time.

One blog out of so many.

Anybody else have this problem?

I despair of keeping up after having started a reading relationship.  And from what I understand, it is reaching out to new writers and encouraging them that really builds community, following more and more blogs, more and more to read, comment on, keep up with.  The problem is not that I am a slow reader.  The problem seems to be that I am really interested in what I’m learning about someone.  And I do seem to need a lot of time to think about what I’m reading.

This community of bloggers is a big, fascinating marketplace.  I’m not upset (eh, maybe a little) because I’ve already accepted that I have limitations.  I can’t be best friends with the whole world, but I can get better acquainted with some of it.  So, today Lord help me decide where to read, where to comment, what to write.  I will rest in that, for today. 

I Would Like to Say but I Can’t

I can hardly talk.  I’ve had this predisposition for laryngitis since I was a teen but I’ve been so healthy the last few years I had almost forgotten what it was like.  When it happens I know I’m going to attempt to say something but I don’t know if I’ll be able to make a noise or  not, and if I do it will probably not be audible as speech.  Then I’ll have to push myself to talk louder and my throat will tighten and actually begin to hurt.  The first cough will come, very dry and bark like.  It won’t satisfy the dryness, the itch, the involuntary spasms in my larynx until I cough again.  And the more I try to stifle it the worse it becomes until tears are streaming from my eyes and I’m in a coughing free for all.

Where do I not want to be when all this takes place?  Several places.  My worst memory of it was in a plane over the north pole during a 16 hour flight from Cambodia to Atlanta.  I was trapped in my window seat by two other people, and I don’t know where I would have gone even if I could have gotten out.  Another inconvenient place is church, on stage, playing the piano.  Not good.  And then there was today, on the quiet, serene orthopedic floor of the hospital. I  had been talking too much and it triggered an episode that I thought would not end well.  Fortunately I ran into a sympathetic nurse who not only brought me water, but cough drops as well.  Coughing like that makes one feel like a major source of the plague.  Maybe I was.

I was visiting  my client/friend, well, back up a little.

Last Monday I got a text in the evening from my client who is mostly paralyzed, having a C-5 spinal injury.  She does drive a specially equipped van and had been out doing errands that day.  It simply read “I almost got killed today on Manatee Ave.”  With an opener like that, I thought surely she would tell me more but no.

I talked with her again a day or so later and learned that her electric wheel chair had gone off the sidewalk, over a four inch curb and nearly dumped her in the street.  She had been saved  by her seat belt and two young men who pulled her back into the chair and the chair back onto the sidewalk.  Other than losing her lunch during the panic she didn’t think she was injured.  But over the next couple of days there was evidence of pain, then swelling in her leg and finally an x-ray that showed a broken femur.  I knew nothing about this last finding until last night when I got an email from a friend with a partial name of a hospital and a room number.  It was late. I went to bed.

This morning I got up early, before testing my voice, and scurried over to the hospital.  Her room number was 932 but, funny thing, there was no 932 in that hospital, and no one registered by her name.  And it took a lot of vocal energy to find this stuff out, believe me.  So I sat in my car and thought of another hospital where she could have gone.  I experienced the agonizing frustration of talking on the phone, having no voice.  It’s not like I could use body language or charades or pencil and paper.  She wasn’t at that hospital either.  I went home and sent out several queries by text and waited for answers.

I did finally find her in the next town south and made it down there by mid morning.  Other than the above mentioned coughing fit, the visit went well and I was glad I went.  This is why.  She is scheduled for surgery and when going to surgery, jewelry is removed if possible.  My client had a ring that no one had been able to remove from her finger.  It was valuable and she was not wanting to have it cut off.  I knew a nifty trick to remove a tight ring that I had learned years before from a youtube video.  I was dying to use it on this perfect occasion.  Everybody should know this method because it really works great and is so easy.  You can use thin elastic, ribbon, even dental floss.  I used crochet thread because I happened to have it with me.  So, I’m going to end with this and you should watch it because you never know when you might be someone’s answer to prayer.

A to Z Challenge: R reminds me of “Remember When…”

my well traveled notebook
my well traveled notebook

At almost every family gathering I’ve been to there is at least one session when all of us sit around telling “remember when” stories. Sometimes the stories are funny, sometimes tragic but they are ones we want to remember and pass on. I will admit that as time goes by the story details can tend to get a little fuzzy.  In fact, one story that my brothers and I all remember is about one of us being a toddler and breaking the glass of a second story window and nearly falling out.  Someone else caught him by the back of his jammy suit and pulled him back. Funny how it’s not real clear anymore who played what part. We try not to argue about it. Dates are also hard to remember.  When did we take that first vacation to Florida?  How long did we live in that house?

One year, as I was listening to my parents and aunts and uncles trade stories and debate the when and why of it all, I decided it might be good to write things down.  I call it sort of a family timeline, like writing a history book about your family.  It’s fun and I love to take it with me to our gatherings, in case I hear some new detail.  The oldest generation in any family knows things that others do not, and face it, those things could be lost if not written down somewhere.

I took an ordinary notebook, of a convenient size to carry in my purse, and put a year on each page. I started with the year I was born but after interviewing my mom this winter I think I will start another section for the time before I came on the scene.  I have a page for every year even if I don’t have anything to enter because sooner or later someone will come up with something for that year.

I get information for the timeline from lots of different sources. Last month I was getting rid of some old check registers and noticed some things I’d written checks for that sparked a memory. My calendars always have something in them that belongs on the timeline, even if I haven’t managed to be faithful in recording everything. Even an old “to do” list in a notebook has clues of projects, parties, and purchases that might be memorable. Birth dates, graduation dates, firsts of all kinds, when the measles struck, where you spent Thanksgiving – it all gets written down. My children laugh when they see that we got our first VCR in 1991. Their children will probably ask what a VCR is and they will get to have a fun conversation about how things have changed.

At the end of each year, during that calm period between Christmas and New Year’s Day I change out my old date book for a new one. Before I store or throw away the old one, I have a fun session reviewing the past year and putting things on the timeline. Year by year, it grows.  Would this be a project your family would enjoy?

Remember when...
Remember when…

A to Z Challenge: L, Letters

 

Dear _____,

Please write me a letter. I know email is faster and easier and cheaper but sometimes I like the way “snail mail” slows things down.  I like seeing that fat envelope in the mailbox, taking it out and reading it while I walk back to the house.  Then I read it again with a cup of tea and think about what it said.  And I can wait for a day or two before I answer because there is no pressure or expectation – we know mail takes days.  I can take my time thinking and writing back.

I love to see your handwriting and don’t want to forget what it looks like, and if you draw a funny picture I like that too.  Sometimes you spill something on your paper or maybe it smells like your hand lotion and it makes me feel more like I’m right there with you.  And I know how much time you invested in the writing and that speaks of love and care.

I know when I sit to write a handwritten note these days it almost feels like I’m rebelling against technology – makes me feel retro on purpose.  And seeing the rounded letters flowing from my pen is artistically pleasing to me.  As I think and write the long way, my thoughts come a little clearer and suddenly I am more sure of what I’m thinking.  It is a special joy to me when you save my letters and return them to me, giving me a record of my times as good as any journal.  I know I’ve forgotten details of events that come right back to me when I pick up an old letter and re-read it.  That old box I keep letters in doesn’t really take up that much room and it’s kind of nice not to have to hunt in cyberspace for hours on end.  You have a box like that too, don’t you? No? How sad.  You should start one.

Someday I want to read to you the letters my great-great-grandmother wrote.  Wow, what a window on her world!  Things were so different and yet so the same.  It does me good to see that thread of sameness in our lives and I think you would like seeing it too.  How much I would have missed if I had not been able to know her through her letters.  Want to know where I got my stubborn streak or quirky sense of humor? I think I know…

Well, all for now.  I know you’re busy but don’t be afraid to sit a spell and write me a page or two.  The world won’t come to an end (probably not) if you do.  I’ll be watching for the mail.

Yours truly,

A Lover of Letters

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I Have Wondered Why It Happened…

We were a fairly young family with two daughters, ages 8 and 5. This was our first big move, leaving friends, family and a comfortable home in the north for unknown circumstances in a state as far south as one could go. Almost everything was unfamiliar. All our belongings were packed into two trailers for the trip. My parents helped us move by towing one trailer and we pulled the other one behind our van.  I remember the end of that long trip – I was driving in the early morning on the interstate and hit an armadillo. It was our introduction to Florida.

After our first day of resting in a motel, our Realtor helped us to a temporary furnished apartment near the famous Siesta Beach with it’s wide, white sand beaches.  We found a storage facility and unloaded pretty nearly all our earthly possessions into two rented rooms to await the new house I was sure we would find within a short time.  We weren’t wealthy but we were blessed with enough. Our “things” were dear to us, having either been received as wedding gifts or handed down as heirlooms from both sides of our families.  We had only some clothing and personal items with us in the apartment.

A week and a few days later we went back to the storage facility to get something we needed.  I walked down the second story corridor to the rooms at the end and tried to figure out why the door on one of our rooms was standing open. I looked in the empty room and tried to tell myself there had been a mistake. Was I somehow in the wrong building? the wrong corridor? What could this mean? I was in a state of repressed panic. I tried to remember all the things we had put in that room but it was impossible – there was too much.  My grandmother’s china cupboard, our best (only) dishes and flatware, our few pieces of art, clothing, my precious knitting machine I had worked so hard to buy… where was it all?

As the next hour unfolded we learned the truth about what had happened that was stranger than anything I could have made up.  It took a while to figure out because, at first, the owners of the storage facility were clueless and defensive.  Gradually putting it all together, this is how it came about.  Previous to our arrival, the now empty storage room had been rented to a customer who was delinquent in paying.  The manager had put an overlock on the room and notified the person that they had X number of days to pay or the contents of their room would belong to the storage facility.  Sometime before that deadline, the customer managed to get in the facility, remove the overlock and get all their belongings out without the manager knowing about it.

I entered the story.  Having been sent up to inspect the building where I was told there were two empty rooms, I saw two rooms, adjacent to each other, empty with the doors standing open.  They looked the right size and we paid for them and filled them up.  I don’t remember even looking at the numbers on the doors.  There were actually three empty rooms off that corridor, one  that I didn’t know about. It’s door was closed and I didn’t even notice it. Unfortunately that was one of the two rooms the manager thought we had rented. The third room, now full of our things, was the one that had belonged to the deliquent customer. And now the deadline had come.

The customary action when the account for a storage room is delinquent is to offer the contents for auction, hoping to recover the delinquent payments (think Storage Wars on reality TV). Our belongings were bought, sight unseen, by a business that accumulated goods from estate sales and storage units and then held a weekly auction on a Friday night.  We learned this on the Saturday after our things had been auctioned.  We were allowed to go through their warehouse and look for anything we recognized that hadn’t been sold.   We bought back the wooden highchair that had been mine as a child.   We found our family picture albums in their trash. There was nothing else. We were devastated.  Although they knew names and addresses of those they had sold to, they would not release any of that information to us.

We felt it was a shared mistake, and attempted to collect damages from the storage company.  Because we had no receipts for the missing items and no appraisals of the furniture and antiques, we were told that legal precedent would be against us.  We would be better off to accept a small settlement rather than take the matter to court and get nothing.  Our lawyer felt so sorry for us he did not charge us for his services.  That was the only overt blessing that I’ve ever been able to recognize concerning this event.

Did life go on? Yes, of course.  But there are differences since then.  I wish I could say that I learned never to make a quick decision, always to check every transaction thoroughly – but that hasn’t always been the case.  What did change was that I hold loosely to “things”, in order that they might not get a grip on my heart.  I’ve bought very little furniture, invested very little in things that might fit into a packing box, spent more time in Goodwill, second hand shops and garage sales for the things I do need.  I’m not sure I understand why God allowed this to happen at a time when so many other difficult things were also taking place, but He did.  I think I will understand it better some time in the future.  And I’ve never given up hope that some day, in some backwoods antique shop, I might see Grandma’s china cupboard again.  I’m just sayin’ it would be kind of like God to do that…

Proud to Be Silly

I was debating whether to adopt the practice of having a certain type of post on the same day of every week, which seems to be common practice on many blogs, say like Silly Saturday. .  But I decided no.  This is my chance to not copy others.  So I’m going to be silly whenever I feel like I need to be, which would be tonight.

I name things. Sometimes I name things because it is easier to remember a name than it is to remember what the thing is.  For instance, Ted.  Ted is a piece of furniture I’ve had for over 20 years. I’ve never been able to figure out what exactly Ted is but it sits in my dining room and holds dishes and tablecloths, batteries and flashlights.  Not a china cabinet, not really a buffet, it became easier to just call it Ted.  Especially when trying to tell someone like the husband where to find something in it.  “Look in the drawer of the…. of the….. that thing in the dining room!”  So much easier to say “Look in the top drawer of Ted.”  And now, after nearly a quarter century he’s finally figured out who Ted is.

I also like to name my vehicles.  They are with me for so long that they become disturbingly like family members – they may as well have names.  My last vehicle, the Aztek, was named Sunny which was short for sunshine, being that it was bright, schoolbus yellow.  I’ve had my new old car for almost three weeks now and have been unsure what to name it.  I wanted something meaningful.  Today I decided to call it LC (Elsie).  LC stands for little car which is my first thought almost every time I interact with the thing. “My goodness, this is a little car!” I think, as I try to figure out where to put my coffee cup, my cereal bowl, my purse, my workbasket, my sunglasses, and my lunch. “My goodness this is a little car!” I think as the husband bangs his head climbing into the passenger seat.  “This is a little car!” I say to myself as the pump only puts in 9 gallons on a fill-up and goes twice as far on that as the previous vehicle.

I have a daughter with the “naming gene” too.  Her present truck is named Nemesis.  We bought it for her rather hastily, without her input and she pretty much can’t stand the thing. The car she had before Nemesis was named Claire.  I know she named her very first car too but I can’t remember it’s name, Patty or something like that. I didn’t really bond with that car.

I’ve named my houseplants (because I can never remember the word “hydrangea”), several notebooks, my kindle, and my property (the oneacrewoods). I have a cat I call Gray Kitty, which is a very practical name for a gray cat.  So you see, naming things is kind of an adaptive mechanism as well as being a bit odd, and it serves me well.  I’m just sayin’, I’m kind of proud of being silly when it comes to names.

Have you ever named an inanimate object? C’mon, fess up.