Tag Archives: music

Shattered

An oval platter perches in the drainer, precariously balanced. I notice the carefully arranged pile of clean dishes, resting just so by the one who managed to fit every washed and rinsed piece together like a tower of Jenga blocks.

I lean over the pile to open the cupboard above, the one that holds medicines, vitamins, and the thermometer. My arm bumps the platter which loses its balance on the top of the stack and crashes to the floor, breaking into pieces.

The noise itself is enough to evoke strong response. A child stands near, waiting for me to retrieve cold medicine. I swallow back words rising to the surface, past my chest, into my throat, longing to escape my lips in a fury of noise.

Stand back. A dish just broke. Are you hurt? Watch out for the pieces.

I take care of the medicine and send her upstairs to get ready for bed as I gather the shatter.

I have two other identical platters, left over from days when I was snatching replacements up on Ebay. I am not sad that it is broken as much as I am annoyed that I have to clean the mess.

I want to blame someone for this, for the fact that something fell unexpectedly and broke, even though it was the result of imbalance and gravity. I turn on myself in a familiar pattern. I could have emptied the tower of dishes from the drainer before reaching over to get cold medicine for a child. Does it matter?

There is no fault.

It’s not about the falling or breaking or blaming. It is about what stirs inside. Always the stirring.

Splintered

Going backwards to find myself
Picking up the pieces
Fragments like the broken platter on the kitchen floor.

The large shards are easy to see, to gather
I collect them in a stack and set them aside to glue later
Where are the splinters?

Those are the bits that will surprise out of nowhere
In the middle of the night
Seemingly invisible, yet sharp
Piercing
Unseen by the eye but felt by the skin when inadvertently stepped upon

I trust a well-placed light to illumine the space
Revealing the slivers before they can harm
I’m finding the pieces to put back together

But should one go missing and enter the skin
A light can illumine the bit of the edge
To pull out with tweezers before it goes deep

Large parts of the story
collected in files
In my mind, in my journals, in my heart
They are gathered, assembled
While the splinters remain scattered
Waiting their turn to be collected, too
Just in a different way
Often piercing under the skin
Surfacing
Seen by the light of love
Tended by kindess
To be put back together
Revealing a brand new purpose.


Creating beauty.

Peace, Love, Joy

December days roll along. The felt tree fills as we settle into a groove of lighting advent candles during dinner and putting up the piece at the end.

This year’s reading time is less structured and, as a result, more peaceful. Whatever it is I have been striving for year after year has been laid to rest. I continue to learn to embrace the present.

Embracing the present looks like trusting the words I read yesterday morning in Deuteronomy 31:6,7 NLT Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or panic . . . for the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

How quickly I flee from love to fear, from peace to panic. These words reminded me again of my anchor. I can trust the one who goes before me, ordering my steps.

I love the picture of handmade felt Advent pieces in the header. I wanted to plan a post around it, but nothing came. The words I tried felt awkward and clunky. Instead of joy, I felt burdened and pressured for something to say.

Listening to Jason Upton’s A Table Full of Strangers, vol 2 I heard the line Peace, Love, and Joy come from you. Quickly I pulled up the picture for my pieces and there were the words. 

Love

Joy

Peace

That is how inspiration came to me. 

Maybe you will be inspired, also. Blessings, Friend!

Backstage Beauty

Standing backstage, I realize how much of my life mirrors this space I inhabit with rows of choristers, their accompanists, and other parent assistants. Together we work to prepare for a concert about to begin.

I pass tissues, bandage fingers, collect trash. I smile, encourage, and whisper final blessings as sparkling children step out to take the stage. Then the space is empty and quiet.

I wait backstage to receive the choristers after this first number and to help them prepare for the next. In this waiting I look around, take deep breaths, collect my thoughts.

Empty bins line the wall. Some rest on a rolling cart. Their contents decorate the auditorium. A tall, glittering Christmas tree, large golden stars, white lights, and colorful hanging banners all have been pulled out to say Welcome Christmas.

Music drifts back, muffled by the curtains and acoustic shell that surrounds the risers. I know its sound. I have listened as it was created, sat as singers worked through it, encouraged and supported those creating it.

I imagine the conductor in her sparkly black gown on stage, drawing out the beauty of the children’s voices. This is her gifting and glory, and it is apparent as this concert begins. My glory is in support. It is backstage that I sparkle.

I navigate behind the scenes well so that others can take their place on the stage. Behind the scenes work happens to create the magic. Laughter, tears, blood, nerves, these all bring life to a performance as it is pulled together and placed on display.

It takes hours backstage to roll out a polished performance. Not all get the privilege of knowing where broken spotlights hang waiting for repair or how many plastic totes it takes to pack up the Christmas sparkle.

I see all of this and more.

My gifting is in seeing and supporting. It is calling forth potential from deep inside of another. It is in naming glory, and this day is glorious. These children and their directors are glorious.

I sit with myself in this tension. Rather than blessing my backstage beauty, I question what is wrong with me that I am not the one on stage. Not just here but in other realms of life. Why do some seem to hold the spotlight naturally, to pull things together, to speak from the front lines with confidence?

Ideas come to me. Memories. Thoughts. We cannot all crowd the up front space. Doing my job well supports others in theirs, and as we each find our unique place, we create beauty. It is not about who is center stage but about how we come together in support of one another for the sake of something bigger.

Deep gratitude and joy flood my heart as I witness and participate in the thunderous applause and standing ovation following the final number. Glory radiates, flowing over the crowd as we celebrate together those on the stage, and I celebrate inside the backstage beauty.

Joy

The man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father. . . Proverbs 29:3
Evil people are trapped by sin, but the righteous escape, shouting for joy. Proverbs 29:6

There is much ambivalence surrounding today’s word. I feel weary, not joyful. I am not doing well at slowing down and living in the moment, though this journey with my art journal is helping.

As much as I tried to find a different prompt, joy stuck. It helped that I knew the image I was going to use for the title. It also helped that I planned to use only the paint colors gifted to me by my friend, Kim, during Certificate 2 training.

I looked up some former posts on joy to stir my heart or at least help me remember. I set off on an early dog walk, hoping to beat the rain in the forecast and gather some inspiration to create something when I returned.

While walking, Kim came to mind, so I called her, expecting to leave a voicemail. Instead she picked up, informing me that she was preparing to teach a college class. I fought back the feeling that I was interrupting something, because she chose to answer and has good boundaries surrounding her phone.

She wanted to say hi and had her students say hello to me over speaker phone. That made me smile and brought joy. I told them they were lucky to be sitting in her class, and I wished I could be there.

Continuing on, I entered the community garden to see if any butterflies were resting on the flowers. There was a monarch, and I stood and watched her for awhile. I soaked in the stillness.

Returning home, I pulled out the folders that hold my pre-cut images. I found the word Joy along with a picture of a bird. It was perfect.

I began with a layer of green. Then I went to the kitchen to bake chocolate chip cookies while it dried. That is how today’s page was created. Work a little, paint a little, work some more, glue a little, finish.

My favorite metallic gold went on next.

 Yes, that paint is from Kim. It’s so perfect.

I arranged the cut out pictures over the dried page and glued them on.

 I began adding color to the page. This is a palette with all four colors ~ turquoise, green, brown, and metallic. There are also several rolls of washi tape that I will use another time.

 This is the final result. I love that it is a picture of a bird, that it has a saying that touches my heart in a deep place, and that I worked turquoise into the color scheme in an artistic way! That was my biggest doubt about today’s intention to use all of the colors, the turquoise.This process has brought some joy, but honestly, right now I have a tightness in my chest that I know as tears. I will sit with them for awhile.

Shadow

Sunday readings come from the EpistlesHebrews 8 speaks of the duties of the high priests and contains the words, They serve in a system of worship that is only a copy, a shadow of the real one in heaven in verse 5. Chapter 10 begins, The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. 

I was drawn to the prompt shadow and began searching for pictures to illustrate the light and dark. As I worked, the song Shadows by Amy Grant ran through my head for teenage me. This was from Lead Me On, a soundtrack during a difficult season.

Also Audry Assad Carry Me, from a more current time.

Here is today’s page.

I love how the light was shining through the window when I took the pictures.

In the shadow of the question is from here.

What are you drawn to in the picture? What does shadow stir?

Tending to Treasure

A family with an old person has a living treasure of gold. ~ Chinese Proverb

Recently I tended living treasure while my parents went out of town. I am blessed to still have three of my grandparents! That itself is worth its weight in gold. One of them lives with my parents, and she is the one I spent time with.

I tease that she is what keeps me at the peak of middle age, since doubling my current age equals hers. She was my age when I was born. We have a long history. Our time together added to our memories.

It is a sacred space, tending the elderly. Recovery from a recent broken hip and fractured pelvis means her mobility is not what it was. We did everything slowly and carefully. When I was looking.

The tricky part came when I was not looking. That is when I would hear movement and footsteps and know that she had gotten up using only her walker without following our carefully choreographed wheelchair routine. I would run to where she was and be met with the words, Don’t let me fall!

She had me there. I was figured out. My plan foiled. That was exactly my intention!

I’m right here. You won’t fall. Maybe we can get the wheelchair? Should we try that?

Our days followed a rhythm of eating, drinking, tending to physical needs, watching Hallmark Channel movies, conversing with visiting friends, playing cards, talking, remembering, trying to remember, repeating the cycle.

I slept on the couch downstairs so as not to miss anything in the night. Even with a radio monitor to alert me, I feared not hearing. After the first night I remembered why I never used a monitor when my kids were little. There were lots of sounds. Then when there were none there was anxiety about why there were no sounds.

On Sunday we dressed a bit fancier. She added sparkly necklaces to accent her pink top. I gingerly ran a comb through her hair, but she would have none of it. Don’t be so careful. Do a good job! So I wet the comb again and brought the more stubborn strands to order vigorously.

Our time together was sweet. It was hard. It was exhausting. We took a lot of naps.

There were things that I brought that I did not need. Yoga mat, computer for blogging, art journal supplies, and coloring items all went unused. My Bible and journal were the only items I opened briefly.

Tending treasure requires attentiveness in any stage of life, for isn’t all life a treasure? Whoever you are tending to, old or young, healthy or sick, hold onto the moments. Be present. There are no guarantees that we will all make it to old person status. So let’s seize our time together now.

And while we are at it, let’s practice being who we want to become.

Changes

It’s after 10:00 on Saturday night, and I’m picking up American Girl dolls and accessories from an elaborate set up in the TV room. They have been there for over a week.

I remember the intricacy involved and time it takes to set up and orchestrate proper play, and I want my youngest to have that freedom for as long as possible. As a result, we have all been navigating over and around tiny dishes and clothing and furniture and dolls, so many dolls. It is time to clean them up.

There are bins to contain everything, but Little Mae is clearly avoiding the task.

I warn her that if she doesn’t pick up, then I will do it for her.

Ok, Fine! She calls over her shoulder as she runs upstairs to play in her room with a sister before bed.

This is how I find myself here, and I do not even take a picture, though the thought crossed my mind. What if this is the last time?

It really could be now, unlike times before when there was always another sister or sibling next in line.

I allow myself to hold the memory of the scene in my heart as I sit in the midst of the play circle, paralyzed. I am transported back to my young self who desired to keep her world ordered, a seemingly impossible task with six younger siblings coming behind and messing things up.

I understand now Little Mae’s avoidance. It is overwhelming. In my overwhelm, I release perfectionism and just place things where they fit. Like with like, mostly. There is fun in unpacking surprises when the bins are brought back out.

Whenever that may be.

My husband works on his own late-night project in the kitchen, just off of the room where I sit. I gain momentum and snap tops on full bins, stacking them, preparing to move them back out to the kitchen set.

Music plays from the speaker in the kitchen. . . Changes . . .and the tears well in my eyes. My heart already feels fragile, and now I am packing and stacking and storing away toys that are nearing their expiration date.

Doubt creeps in and over and around my heart as I question my choice to allow the girls to spend so much birthday and Christmas money over the years on dolls and tiny dresses and miniature shoes and furniture.

I remember and question my own rush of anticipation, stalking Cyber Monday deals and trolling secondhand shops for unique tiny things.

Changes.

I find a paper rolled and taped into a tiny cone shape with pompoms glued on it for cotton candy and ice cream sandwiches cut from craft foam and the tiny empty plastic bottles that held beads from a recent craft kit and smile.

It was worth it. IS worth it.

And I allow the tears to come.

Unprepared for Goodbye

There were only two visits I was able to make before the holidays. Mondays in Bridgewater afforded me time to stop by after a weekly meeting with friends. I planned to return this week. Back to our regularly scheduled program already in progress.

I was not prepared for the news.

It is easy to check mail on my phone, so when a ministry team message came through with only his name in the heading, I opened it instantly. Sometimes things can be too instant, leaving a person raw in the wake of the suddenness.

I thought I knew what it would say.

There would be a health update, maybe a way to serve the family. There might be specifics of how the disease was progressing or a general update to keep us informed as to how to pray for the man who continued to pray for us from the confines of his automated recliner.

My breath caught in my chest as I read that my dear friend’s breath had left him in the night as he slept.

Gone was the man who sat across from me for so many Stephen Ministry meetings, his faithfulness and genuine care and concern for people radiating from his face. He held many of my prayer requests close and would ask how God was working in my life, right up until our last visit together.

A fun fact is that he had attended the church my husband grew up in when they both lived in Northern Virginia. He remembered my husband as a boy and would laugh and tell stories of him. We had a connection.

He loved.

Above all he loved the Lord and wanted to serve him in all that he did. Our last visit together was full of stories of days gone by, such as being roped in invited to help with the Awana program at his church when he was a younger man and how he cared for the kids who were difficult, understanding that they were the ones who needed love the most.

He cared.

There were many times that he went out of his way to be present or show up for people. He sought out the hurting and humbly reached out with a kind word or thought.

He encouraged.

He encouraged me with his words and his steadfast faith in God. He encouraged me by attending worship whenever he could, right up until his final weeks when it became difficult. I remember the last Sunday that I saw him from stage, sitting in his chair in the back. My heart caught in my chest and my eyes welled up, much as they did when I read that he died.

Bob is in heaven now. I don’t know how it works, but I am confident that he is present with the Lord. This song comes to mind as I sit with my tears remembering my friend. I think it captures his heart.

Goodbye, Bob.

Hope for Healing

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
Psalm 62:5

There were too many strikes against the wounded places in my heart this morning to sit through church. Already late from the effort it still takes to get everyone out of the house, which seems eerily similar to what it was years ago only in a different way, I arrived halfway through the one song I was hoping to sing.

Enduring the rustling and settling of the children who sit with us while hoping that the ones who do not were doing what they were supposed to in the back, I tried to focus on the task at hand and enter worship. I was frustrated and exhausted.

Darkness is familiar, and the deepness that it brings threatens to pull my soul further into a void. The constant struggle to remain upright and grounded is real.

It was a lifetime ago, yet I still grieve. What am I grieving? What feels life-giving? I held that tension in my heart  while looking up at the glow of a single candle signifying the beginning of Advent. I stood and sat and tried to sing what was hard.

Your law is good. . . 

I could not make it through all of the words. It was nothing less than a miracle that I sang that song from the stage last week when I was on worship team, revealing how well I can shore up and do what needs to be done in the moment.

Standing as Scripture was read, feeling the ground beneath me, I breathed in, holding hope that I could do this. I sat.

Words came at me, and I noticed them blurring together. It took energy and effort to stay present, and I was doing really well.

God expects full obedience to his commandments.

The sermon series on the Ten Commandments continues. Whatever week this is feels a week too long. Each week is too long.

I believe and agree with this. I am also deeply triggered by this. There were too many strikes against my spiritually wounded heart this morning to sit and hear the very verses about the law that were used to beat me into submission and rob me of life. They bring no comfort.

Maybe comfort is there. . . just not right now. Maybe there is hope for healing from an abuse of the law, but right now I need comfort and care. I did not feel it in this space.

I spend much time comforting and caring.

I found myself in the tension of longing to communicate, of pressing into the questions surrounding the fray while trying to contain all that was dumping out of my heart.

Is there balm in Gilead?

As a terrified sixteen-year-old girl I was trying to grasp the law on my own and be pleasing. As a forty-six year old woman living with the implication of this desire, it is difficult to see goodness. All I feel is sadness and deep pain.

I am aware that others are not responsible for how their words are inadvertently used to crash into my heart. It does not make the crashing any less painful. It was in the pain that I found myself sitting in the breezeway, ear buds in, listening to music while writing in my journal.

We are all full of stories.

Later I found myself sitting with a friend, hearing more of her story, asking her about hope.

Today is the candle of hope. The very questions I asked my friend, I ask myself. What does hope look like to you? When did you feel hope? What do you hope for?

This is where I am and what I will be pondering this first week of Advent.