Tag Archives: music

Butterfly Blessing

Choosing to leave my phone behind, I climbed to the middle of the back bench seat in the family minivan. Silencing the what if’s in my head surrounding all of the things that I could possibly need it for, the answer remained leave it behind.

I don’t even need it for pictures.

Late Father’s Day afternoon, Steve packed a cooler and announced his desire to visit Riven Rock Park. With seven of us going, the van was full. I chose to give my front seat to the eighteen year old who had spent many years wedged in the very back middle between the car seats of younger siblings.

Everyone scurried to find swimsuits, water shoes, and towels. Transitioning from house to vehicle was a challenge. While moving beyond struggling with car seats, diaper bags, and sippy cups, we now wrangle electronic devices, headphones, and seating arrangements. Somehow we survived the final painful push, and the house and van doors were shut and locked.

Upon arrival at Riven Rock, the van was emptied and the water filled with laughter and voices of siblings. Sunshine poured through the trees, and shadows lengthened. I walked down to the water, stepping gingerly from rock to rock, hoping to achieve my goal of staying dry as I meandered across the top of the water.

Meandering took me back to shore and up the length of the gravel drive, deeply engaged in thought. Without an electronic device to distract and pull me into what other people were doing or to announce to other people what I was doing, I was left with myself. This felt uncomfortable and unsettling. What am I doing?

It’s the question I get most often, these days. What are you doing now? or What are you doing next? 

The answer is I just don’t know.

Walking and wrestling with the unknown, I felt gravel crunch under my feet and heard birds sing in the trees. I asked Jesus to meet me in this space with what I needed, not even knowing what I needed myself. I walked and watched.

My eyes caught sight of something blue and papery on the ground. Once my mind registered that it was a butterfly, I thought it was wounded or dead. Closer examination revealed that it was resting while slowly moving its wings up and down. I stood still, breathing with the movement of the wings in, out, in, out.

The butterfly was not in a hurry to get anywhere. My mind raced to regret that I had not brought my phone to capture this moment of breathing with a blue butterfly that was being so still for so long without an injury. Then my focus shifted to capturing the present moment of stillness with it and reminding myself that it was enough to be just me with the butterfly without the entire world watching or even knowing about it.

The butterfly remained still before finally flitting upward and away towards the trees. I stood in awe and gratitude for what I had experienced in the moment. The practice of breathing and stillness and presence with a beautiful creature clothed in a color that I had never seen before was a gift.

Moments later the blue butterfly returned, alighting just in front of my feet. I peered down closely, trying to memorize its brilliant coloring and beautiful shape so that I could look it up and identify it later. Again, I matched my breath to the slow movement of its wings.

Is this what you had for me today, Jesus? The reminder to slow down and breathe? The knowledge that it is enough just being with myself and with you? The practice of stillness?

Suddenly the butterfly flew up from the ground, touched my forehead and flew away. I stood there stunned. It felt just as a butterfly kiss should feel, light and feathery and stunning. It felt like a butterfly blessing.

I was stunned and stood there in awe.

The butterfly returned a third, and final time. It landed again on the ground in front of me, just as my husband was walking up from the water. I imagine it looked odd to him to find me standing strangely still staring at the ground. I pointed at the blue butterfly, and he was able to glimpse it before the beautiful creature flew up and disappeared into the trees.

There is no picture. (The one at the top of this blog is a Monarch butterfly from my files.) There is no documentation. I cannot even identify the butterfly correctly from the images I find online. All that remains is the image in my mind. That has to be enough. I will trust that it is enough.

Because

Because you are my Shepherd, I have all that I need.
You allow me to rest in beauty.
You guide me in peace.

You renew me when I am weak, direct me to where I must go.
You are close when I feel afraid.
You protect and comfort me.

When I am surrounded by enemies, you prepare for me a feast.
You anoint my head with oil.
You overflow my cup with blessings.

Your goodness and love are not only available, they chase me down.
You are with me all my days.
You take me to live in your house forever when those days have passed.

Forever.

Because you are my shepherd.

 

Counting Down

It is the second countdown to Seattle. In a week I will be ending Day One, part two.

What has happened since the last trip? What was the outcome? What am I doing next? What will I be doing with this certificate when all is said and done?

These questions, and more, are asked by friends and loved ones. They are interested and care about this endeavor. Some have invested in me financially, others with friendship and prayer. Acquaintances are curious. In my mind I compose eloquent responses and blog posts. In reality, I work hard to plan and prepare for each module in every area of my life ~ home, work, studies.

This leaves little time for writing much more than lists ~ groceries and to dos, journal entries, lesson plans, and stories for Seattle. Fresh blog posts are moved the back burner and, frankly, by the time I have the space, they feel difficult to compose.

It takes a deep level of acceptance that it is, indeed, the right year for me to be doing this training. If I am not careful, it is easy to slip into envy of others whose lives I imagine as more ideal and better suited for this season of intense mental and emotional work. Then I remember truth and feel grateful for the gift of this journey.

Currently, I am sitting on my bed surrounded by recipes for next week’s meals and the beginning of a crude grocery list. I am navigating the choppy waters of middle school make-up homework enforcement while listening to a complete list of all of my parenting failures.

I am pondering how my own stories are playing out in my responses, both internal and external, that intersect with and shape my children’s stories. This upcoming session is about family of origin and attachment, so those topics are front and center in my thoughts.

My Family Narrative story is submitted, reading assignment is almost completed, a suitcase stands empty, waiting to begin being filled. I am living moment by moment. Each day is filled to the brim with necessary business. There is little extraneous these days. Life is good. Life is hard. Life is a gift.

I have rediscovered the music of 3 Doors Down on this journey. On my iPhone is an eclectic blend of albums and artists accumulated by my children over many seasons. 3 Doors Down is from son #1’s teenage years and several albums were discovered on my iPhone 4 while on the plane home from Seattle in September. Truth. It was such a sweet, surprising discovery!I love music. Have a listen and stay awhile.

This is one of my many confirmations that this year is the right one for me. Blessings! I am off to the grocery store, now!

Grounded

I returned from Seattle last Monday. Weekend one of four is tucked away in the books. This leg of the journey has only begun.

After an intense 25 hours of lecture and group time, it was lovely to spend Sunday afternoon with friends being a tourist before boarding a late-night, red-eye flight home.

Feeling claustrophobic in a window seat on a full flight, I was grateful that my cup of Sleepytime Extra tea seemed to be kicking in and that my neck pillow, however awkward looking, offered comforting support. Slipping off my sparkly Toms and on my cozy fleece socks, and covering up with a scarf-blanket, all I needed was music to send me on my way to sleep.

I slept.

It was a sweet grace to drift off for a few hours before waking to a waning-crescent moon and the big dipper right outside of my window in the clear black sky, so close I could almost touch them. Slumbering people sharing the row prevented me from getting up and walking around. Deep breathing and the moon and stars kept me from panicking.

Sara Groves sang in my ears as tears ran down my face. Tears invite curiosity, and I pondered what resonated so strongly between her words and my heart.

And I pray for a vision and a way I cannot see. It’s too heavy to carry and impossible to leave.

Heaviness. Impossibility. Vision. Change.

Drifting back to sleep, I stayed settled until the descent. Bright flashes of light caught my attention. I wondered if they were lights from the plane.

It was lightning.

I left sunny Seattle and returned to thunderstorms.

Touching down, the pilot’s voice over the speaker informed that lightning prevented the plane from being parked at the gate, since it was unsafe for workers to be out on the tarmac. Until further notice, all flights were grounded, and we were not going anywhere, including off of the plane.

This was a difficult space to inhabit. I was transported to days at the pool or the amusement park, or at a sporting event where timing the lightning was crucial to re-entering the activity. Those minutes between flashes felt like an eternity. There was nowhere to go.

We waited.

When the timing was right, I exited the plane, uncertain of what would be waiting inside. Would flights be cancelled? Rescheduled? On time? This time I knew where I was going and walked through the airport with purpose.

My flight was cancelled. Plans were changed. Instead of meeting my son in his classroom later that morning, I would spend the day grounded in the Charlotte airport. Weather is not something that can be controlled.

I struggled with this.

After much wrestling and acceptance, I breathed into the space that was a day at the Charlotte Airport and made my way to the chapel first. Sitting there in the quiet, I tried to hold what had just happened, but so many shoulds weighed down on my shoulders.

Giving myself grace to just be in the space, I practiced silence before re-entering the fray of a busy airport.

Disappointed that I had gate-checked my suitcase with the power cord to my laptop, I found a rocking chair to sit in and grounded my feet. The rocking motion soothed my soul as I watched the sky clear and the sun return.

My flight did not board until 5:30, so I spent time writing and reading and thinking. I got lunch and spent time reading and eating alone until I invited a lovely lady to sit with me when it was apparent that she could not find an open table.

This move was unusual for me, yet opened my heart to a sweet gift. We shared where we were in the moment and in life and found that in spite of the difference in our skin color, there were many similarities in our souls. A new sister was met, friendship was sparked, and numbers exchanged.

I left lunch in humility and awe at the kindness of God in the Charlotte airport. The space felt sacred and sweet. I saw and was seen. I was blessed. I spoke blessing.

The flight to Roanoke was uneventful and the drive home smooth. I was grateful to fall into the arms of my husband and into the comfort of my home.

Here is Sara’s music that met me on the flight. Maybe it will meet you, too. Be blessed, Friends! Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

Just What I Need

Departure was difficult. Waves of sadness crashed over me when I let them. All morning an eight-year-old girl stole moments to sidle up to my desk and press herself into me, looking up with big, sad eyes.

I’m going to miss you.

I’ll miss you, too, Little One.

It’s hard for me to fathom being missed, but I believe it from the comments and conversations overheard at home and school. I choose to believe it in the midst of unbelief.

I will also miss.

Saying goodbye to my love triggers deep, deep feelings, long buried, yet tapping me on the shoulder for attention. Painful goodbyes and long distance separation belong to our story. My well-crafted walls, once easy to put up, are beginning to crack.

I purposely chose an airport away from a metropolis with lots of people and traffic. The smooth hour and forty minute drive south allows me time to think.

Starbucks’ Chile Mocha doesn’t rival Shenandoah Joe’s Aztec, but it’s not bad. I bless my husband for his encouragement to drive through Starbucks and for giving me money to try this new seasonal drink.

Self care looks like stopping to use the restroom when I have to. Baby steps. Not gonna lie. I go inside.

The airport is quiet and empty. Security is a breeze. I sit and wait.

Now I can allow my mind to fully unwind and wander. It goes right to the earbuds I forgot to borrow from my husband. I choose to use money gifted by my inlaws for snacks to buy a pair.

The music pumping into my ears throughout the flight makes every dime of that purchase worth it.

Flight one is late. My smooth plan is hitting a snag, and countless checkings of my connecting flight information is not speeding this flight up a bit. I keep checking.

Prop planes are another part of my story. Lots of puddle jumping. Still the loud rattle outside of my window is jarring.

Why does it feel like a lawn mower is pushing me up into the sky? I focus on pressing my back into the seatback and imagine I am getting a massage.

Wednesday is chapel day. Was I really just sitting in chapel with my class this morning singing Good, Good Father? It is not lost on me that the worship song Mr. C chose for this month has been another thing preparing my heart for the road ahead.

It is work to truly believe my Father’s goodness, and that He knows just what I need, even if it is uncomfortable or hard.

It’s hard to sit on a late flight and wonder where the connecting gate will be in the airport. It’s hard to think that just what I need could involve missing it.

And that would be okay.

There is a level of tension and expectancy as we crowd the aisle waiting to funnel off of the plane and wait for our carry-on bags. This is why the flight attendant firmly admonishes us that under no circumstances are we to go beyond the propellers.

I want to dash back and grab my bag and run into the airport to find my gate. Instead I wait like everyone else until the cart wheels up. All of us have places to be. Mine is gate B4. I am in concourse E.

Grateful for my daily Dewey workouts, I begin the dash. And dash it is. And focus.

You know just what I need. . .

You’re a good, good Father. . .

I am loved by you.

The words set my pace.

It takes an eternity and several moving sidewalks to traverse concourse E and try to locate B. It draws closer as other letters branch off and shops begin to appear.

Piano music fills the air as concourse B comes into view. A young man sits at a grand piano playing.

My ears hone in on the tune in disbelief. It really can’t be.

Can it?

I want to stop and fumble through my bag for my wallet to dig out some cash to drop in the tip jar if there is one. Is there a tip jar? I have no time. I must get to gate B4. I must stop in the restroom.

I offer up a prayer of blessing, instead. It’s all I can do.

I arrive at my gate just as standbys are being called.

My bag must be checked, and I surrender it at the end of the ramp before boarding. I breathe my way onto the plane.

Sinking into the window seat, I allow the tears to roll down my face.

Dear Young Man playing Good, Good, Father on the piano in the Charlotte Airport,
Thank you for the gift of worship in the chaos of travel. Through you, the Father gave me just what I needed to get to my plane on time. May the God who sees in secret reward you openly.

Anchor Me

Anchor me.
Tether me.
Bind me to your heart.
Lead me to the higher rock.

I feel the drift.
I’m drifting.

As you hold me together,
I am held.

As you sustain me each day,
I am sustained.

Yet I struggle.

Please calm my heart
as it races and wrestles
your work in my life.

You are not far from me, God.
You are here.

You are with me, Creator God,
Lord of my life.

You are the potter ~ I am the clay.

Throughout the disruption and disrupted,
You rule.

This hymn from my IFB roots has been playing in my head, lately. This is the only video that I could find with lyrics, so that you can actually understand the words. Enjoy!

Drummer Boy

This is it. Graduation day. I am so proud of you.

You broke the mold, Son. So many molds of mine, actually.

You broke my birthing mold.
You broke my parenting mold.
You broke my teaching mold.

You were born with a free spirit, to the beat of a different drum.

I didn’t know it.

I had a lot to learn that only you could teach me.

  • Start each day with breakfast. As you came downstairs each morning, your first words were “Need bekkis”
  • Ask for what you need. “Need kiss” as you took your paci out of your mouth to kiss me with your toddler mouth
  • Laugh in the funny moments. like when a new mattress was delivered, and it looked like my bed had grown two feet taller, and I stood with four year old you as we spontaneously laughed
  • Sing your own song. As I’m changing your diaper and singing your nigh-nigh bed song and you chime in with a “Play toys” descant. At 18 months.
  • Weigh your options. When reading blends and words wasn’t really worth it and made you cough until mini marshmallows were on the line. Then you were a reading pro!
  • Be helpful. As four year old you carried newborn Kirk down the stairs to me because “He was going to cry.”
  • Use your voice. Yours was loud and insistent and challenging, but it got my attention. And that of anyone within hearing range in a parking lot or grocery store as you threw one of those tantrums that “my child would never throw.” And that of the neighbor when you were yelling out of the window with your friends.
  • Love people and make friends. Like you do so well.

I wish I could go back to that 27-year-old mama of four and give her one of the hugs that infant and toddler you so lavishly bestowed on me.

I would tell her that it really is worth it and really is a blessing amidst the tantrums and struggles over raincoats and putting away sandals and clipping into car seats.

I would ask her what she was afraid of and stop to listen to her answer. I would show her the very things she feared she was creating if she didn’t slow down and live in the moment. I miss the moments. I’m sorry that it took me so long to recognize them. I’m sorry that I thought I could control what I feared.

I’ve always said that I wanted things to be what they really are, even when it is painful.

I remember how painful it was to make the decision to enroll you at THMS. That was really hard in many ways due to my background and story, but I knew that it was the right thing for you. Even though the middle school years were messy, it was worth it that day as we were riding to or from high school when you spontaneously thanked me.

Thanks, Mom, for sending me to THMS so that I could meet my friends.

You have always loved to be with people and to have lots of people around, except maybe at the dinner table if they were under three feet tall and in high chairs. The conversation we had that day in the car confirmed in my heart that the right decision was made for you.

And now here you are.

What’s next?

That’s the question of the season. Friends ask me. They ask you. Everyone has an idea. A suggestion.

It’s okay not to know. It’s okay to be real and unsure and to march to the beat of your own drum. It’s okay to live life and be present in the moment and be open to the future and to not have all of the answers, yet.

Whatever is next, know that you are loved. I am proud of you for who you are. Congratulations on reaching this milestone!

I love you, Drummer Boy.

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Remember this feeling. Keep following your dreams and your gifting! You are a rock solid drummer.

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I love the way it ended where it began.

 

 

Meanwhile, Elsewhere

There’s an improv game that I remember Steve participating in during one of his earliest No Strings Attached shows. It was called, Meanwhile, Elsewhere, and involved quick scene changes and fast-paced multiple storylines.

A scene would begin, say, in the cafeteria, and then after a bit someone would say, Meanwhile, in the library. . . and another scene would be going on that somehow tied to the first. I’m sure there is a strategy or game plan to the sketch. I just remember Steve running into scenes and adding more to them by saying, Meanwhile in PE class . . . and his fellow improvisationists would have to pick up the slack of the scene.

I am feeling a bit Meanwhile, Elsewhere about life, right now. There has been so much excitement and processing about being accepted into the certificate program that I have been playing heavily into that scene. The fund-raising site launch added another dimension, keeping my mind intensely focused on that aspect of life.

Meanwhile, Elsewhere, end-of-year concerts and performances are taking place. A senior son is wrapping up his high school percussion career and a fourth grade daughter is beginning hers. They shared the stage together for the final number of a collaborative dance, percussion, and Orff ensemble concert at the high school.

Since this begins Fine Arts Week(s) in the city, there are many more performances coming up over the next two weeks. I am trying to savor the moments in the midst of the madness. One minute I wonder how we could ever do this, and the next I am thinking how could we NOT?

Sibling Percussionists

This makes it all worthwhile. These people.

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I want to hold these next days and weeks close. I don’t want to miss a thing. As another bird readies to launch, it’s not quite time, yet. There is still much to celebrate and savor as I live life in the Meanwhile, Elsewhere. . .

Piano Lesson

My son recently performed in a piano festival. Each pianist played two memorized pieces that were evaluated by judges. A score of superior from each judge, double superior, meant that the performer was invited to play one of their pieces in a recital the following day and receive recognition and a trophy.

Now, this could be the humble brag post about how my son surprisingly received a double superior, but it is really the be your best you post that I need to write for myself to read later. So that is why I am writing it!

The festival took place on a Saturday with performance times beginning in the morning. A sister who also participated was in the 9:00 time slot. Son was in the 10:00 block. Participants were expected to be on time, stay for the entire hour listening to the other performers, and then check the postings on the wall in the hall to see if they received the coveted SS.

Mornings are challenging at our house on a good day, and there is never really one of those, so you can imagine what early Saturday performance mornings are like. Getting out of the house dressed and presentable was not a pretty sight or sound.

Son threw on some clothes, missed his coffee, iPod, and warmup on our piano, and jumped into the car with sister and me. There was much grumble-grousing. I was not in the most generous of moods and was lecturing on how we can’t all be in total comfort all of the time. There was really no other option than for us to all go together and boy to wait for his performance time. The use of my phone to pass the time softened the blow slightly.

I listened to nine-year-old sister play two memorized pieces almost perfectly and was impressed by her first festival performance. Based on past experience with siblings I was fairly confident that she might have pulled off a double superior. I said nothing but congratulated her at the end.

This is why I am not a piano judge.

At 10:00 it was brother’s turn, and I found him waiting in his performance venue. His skill level plays on the expensive upstairs piano in the auditorium. We sat together waiting for his turn. I could sense nervousness and heard negative self-talk coming from him and reminded him to just relax and do his best.

A fellow performer from the same studio went before him and played two complex pieces. The faster piece was filled with intricate-sounding runs up and down the keyboard. Son leaned over and said, I can’t do that! The dismissive shake of his head and shrug of the shoulders had me sensing even more of a downward spiral coming on, increasing the negative momentum, grinding him to a standstill before he had even started.

mother and son

I leaned over to give him some motherly advice, and this is what came out. . .

You don’t have to play like the other performers. Just play like the best YOU in this moment.

Isn’t that true for all of us? I know it is for me.

I look around at my friends with their unique callings or their blogs with their voices and think I can’t do that. I can’t write about homeschooling or health or the benefits of _________. I haven’t designed a product or written a book or come up with a better way to __________. I haven’t gone back to school like _______. I don’t have that advanced degree like ___________. I’m not working from home in a job that I love like _________. I can’t sing like ___________. I am not a businesswoman like _________. I’m not as wise and spiritual as ____________.

I don’t have to do what other people are doing. I don’t have to compare myself to others. I just have to do what I do and be the best me in the moment.

Son heard his name, walked up onto the stage, and soldiered through his piece. I listened on the edge of my seat, slightly cringing at the areas where I heard him holding back due to nerves and lack of proper morning preparation. I coped in my classic way, through paper and pen in a tiny journal

“Mornings are never smooth at our house, so a Saturday morning with early piano performances at a piano festival seemed doomed from the beginning. Son’s score should really be interpreted through a baseline lens ~ meaning this is how he performs cold ~ no coffee, no warm-up, no sleep, cranky, and irritable. I am proud of him just for being here. It is hard to keep a 13 year old boy on track! It is hard to keep a 44 year old woman on track!”

He returned to his seat next to me, head shaking, hair flopping as he sat down. Whispered analysis of all that went wrong in the piece came my way, as the judges worked on his score at their table. I enjoyed the other performers, and then exited the hall to regroup with his teacher in a room downstairs.

Talking together, we debriefed on how the morning had gone, when a teenage boy sauntered up, face flushed, head shaking, eyes full of disbelief. What does it mean if your name is highlighted?

It means a double superior, answered his teacher. That is what my son received.

This is why I am not a piano judge.

The following afternoon found us in a different performance space enjoying the fruits of his labor, of him being the best him in the moment, as we listened to the honors recital together.

Whatever you are, Friend. Be the best YOU in the moment! Bring yourself to the world and step right up.

Angered by the Call

Sometimes I wonder if I have changed, am changing, will ever change. I look back over the blog, read old entries, and think, really? STILL?

Sure, things are not exactly the same, but they are eerily similar. I found one such gem after looking through some old posts from the private blog. Sitting in my drafts folder was this memory from three years ago, almost to the day.

It is a different kind of hard that we sit in. We are always sitting in the hard, and maybe that is what I need to remember and learn as I sit in this Saturday afternoon between death and resurrection.

From March, 2013

It has been a hard day. Week. Season.

Life is so very full, which is a good thing. We are blessed. Work stress means there is work. House mess means people are living. Serving others means we are able-bodied.

It’s still been hard. Tiring. Draining. Exhausting. 

I had been looking forward to Good Friday.

Not in a, “I gave up caffeine for Lent and can’t wait for coffee on Easter” kind of way but in a, “I can’t wait for the school to be closed and to get to sleep in and have coffee with Steve” one. I was looking forward to hanging out together. 

Good Friday morning, Steve woke up and something was wrong. He was sick. It was his turn for the stomach bug that has been passing through our family for weeks. The violent, let me tear through your system and leave you languishing, stomach bug.

And I was angry.

Angered by the call to sacrifice my agenda and desire to have things my way. Angered by the call to suffer, because, after all, now I was going to have to do EVERYTHING myself and how is that FAIR? Can’t I even get a BREAK? A day OFF?

On Good Friday, the day set aside to remember the One who sacrificed his life entirely, the day I am on worship team for a special service, the day I am called in a minuscule way to lay down my own life and suffer and sacrifice for another, and my response is anger.

Not love.

Not Christlike.

Not taking up my cross to follow. Not even on Good Friday.

Only the painful, tangible, heart-rending reminder of why all of this had to happen.

For me.