Sunday, November 9, 2008

Amazing Grace

I was blessed last week. My aunt had asked me to sing at her funeral. She'd been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last spring. It was a trying journey for her and she faced it with courage, dignity, and most importantly, her faith in Christ Jesus. What a witness of God's grace for the moment. Powerful testimony.

Truly, I didn't know how to sing at a funeral of someone I knew personally and loved; at my bro's last year, I'd only chimed a song from the lobby wanting to contribute and playing accompaniment was easy. Now, I'd have to really not get choked up and/or nervous. I'm not a solo performer - at least not the well-composed kind. But this sort of thing isn't a performance, anyway. It is a tribute to God and in honour and memory of the person's life one is celebrating.

And in this case, someone very near and dear to all of us who certainly knew the Lord and was ready to be with Him. Her family has been through a terrible trial in observing her loss, and also the loss of their husband/father and father/grandfather, both to cancer, as well. Incredible trial, pain, loss... incredible, telling journey of acceptance, grace and faith. This was a day of releasing the one who was ready to be at home. And a day to celebrate her life.

I hadn't known prior what Aunt Alberta wanted sung that day. Learning it was "On Eagle's Wings" was a relief, although the music wasn't anywhere to be found. I knew she had asked her granddaughter to sing as well, if she felt she was up to it. Unfortunately, she was too saddened. Her grandma had spoken often of how well she'd sung "Amazing Grace" in church. So, Joe and I sang a new rendition of "Amazing Grace" that I'd worked up the couple days before the funeral. It turned out to be an upbeat, optimistic sounding and feeling way to do an old, lovely hymn. I added a few lyrics and was thankful that this public domain hymn was available to be reworked.

I was blessed that several friends were praying for our morning journey out of town. God met me there and helped get us through the numbers without tears or lumps in our throats. We could really enjoy the knowledge that this kind lady is with our Lord. We could truly be thankful. It was an unseasonably warm, sunny day. And a great blessing to visit with so many cousins. It's so great, too, knowing that so many know the Lord.

I want to get into the studio to record this piece, but Joe is unemployed currently and there isn't a way right now to do anything but "jam and bread". I am so thankful, however, that despite the loss of our van to the accident that Phoebe and I were in (thank God that we weren't seriously hurt!) that we can rejoice in life and current health. We are rejoicing in our Saviour. And,...

Mom was on her way home after being with Aunt Alberta the night she died. She must have been out of it and very tired having said her last goodbye and turned the wrong way on the highway in the darkness going home... the direction of oncoming traffic. She realized this, thankfully, before any collision, and did a U-turn. An officer pulled her over and remarked that she has an excellent driving record... "and I like your bumper sticker!" He let her go on home without a warning. I couldn't believe the mercy. Thank God. It drove the point home to me that He has already numbered our days. It just wasn't her time that night. I shared this with my sister and brother-in-law when we were over there collecting Halloween treats and Phoebe's birthday present. They shared that Mike's father had died going the wrong way into oncoming traffic on the very same highway years ago. So ironic.

I rest in thanfulness tonight. Help me remain thankful. In all things. Tonight, Joe and I were singing songs together and we ran through "Amazing Grace" and then I realized that it sounds an awful lot like my aunt's name, "Alberta Grace"...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

at the bookstore...

I was talking with my daughter crossing over the 35W bridge to the program, south to Burnsville on August 1, 2008, remarking that this was about the time the bridge went down... Ironically I had scheduled the program for this Friday, August 1, not realizing until the day before that it would be the one year anniversary of the bridge collapse.

I’ll recount as best I can… Last year it was in rush hour that I'd been arguing with my husband on the phone, I was overwhelmed, angry and upset... feeling great pain I felt like fleeing. I was compelled to run to one of two places, I should have gone to the throne. The day before Sophie and I saw the flick "Hairspray" and debated on a favorite Italian place in Dinkytown (taking us over the bridge) or Mex... it was around 5:30 the day before, July 31, 2007. We hemmed and hawed and chose Mex. Pepitos to be exact. Well thoughts of Italian were in my head the next day and it was around the same time, a little after 5:30 p.m.. Argue argue, phone down. Turned off. I'd had enough. It was a war in my head. Take time to yourself, go have dinner, you don't need to deal with this! -vs.- Doing what I knew I needed to do, go to Cub, buy the ingredients for the soup you need to make for Sharon (my sister) and do it now! Like two angels on each shoulder: Time to yourself... soup… time for YOU… soup! And so the war went on. I don't know what in the world (angels, the Holy Spirit) compelled me to go to Cub and follow through with the soup, but I did. Only to return to my vehicle at around 6:30 with loads of frantic messages from my daughter and from Joe. "Call immediately,..." "This is urgent,..." "Call now!"... and so it went. I couldn't figure it out. Then, the sound in my daughter's voice on the machine resonated panic and determined unsurrender. I can't remember it all and I don't frankly wish to identify the emotions, presently, but the long and short of it is mercy. I got home and my son was there to meet me at the door, “Mom, I thought you were on the bridge,” he said with a look of deepfelt sorrow, he hadn’t recovered yet, even though he knew I was alright, right there with him.

On the day also where darkness fell on some of China with the solar eclipse, the lights were coming on again for me. Here we were crossing over a bridge southbound on 35. Just north on the other side of town was the bridge site where I might have been the previous year, had I not been obedient to my plans to serve my sister, I might have been very near the bridge, if not on it. God in His sovereignty overrules our near disasters many times, and had I gone it is very plausible I wouldn't have been on the bridge at that moment. But I certainly would have been stricken with a starker reality: the trauma induced by disobedience and its aftermath. Simply realizing my notions to not go home were ominous enough to instill a deep sobering inside of me.

This year, at this time, at this place... I was grateful. Resting in the mysterious, loving arms of my Saviour and about to go sing for Him. He also had been telling me for a long time to “sing a new song.” That message I heeded. I thank Him for that, for His protection and saving me from myself, essentially. Sometimes we simply succomb to the temptation to give up, to not see something through, when we actually need to put forth the effort and simply entrust ourselves to God. When a break is necessary, our flesh is very weak. Seeking escape in anything other than God, Satan will be sure to use that opportunity to pull us down and into danger. His goal is always to destroy, steal and kill.

And I shall rejoice that His mercies are new every morning. When He speaks, O, God, make us listen! Even when we see only in part.

Give us ears that hear and eyes that see. And cause us to obey Your voice.

Monday, June 30, 2008

My Garden

Song isn't my only garden... but aside from children of God... it is my favorite, and a very special one. A challenging, but rewarding one. Here is another garden of mine. One that is for me quite substantially less significant, but nevertheless mine and bears my signature: beauty alongside weeds, growing side by side, and sooner or later, not with my touch, but the loving touch of God and also His mercy for my bouquets here, a blossom or two arises. Thanks, Father. Despite pestilence of one kind or another, You have allowed a garden to grow.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A New Day

Well, the program went well, save for the frog that introduced us from my throat. I blamed my son who began our morning with recitation from his Icky Sticky Slime Lab book: lab of choice: Recipe for Phlegm. I insisted that this was not an appropriate way to begin a day set aside for singing. My idea for breakfast was hot tea and quiet.

It was a blessing for me. I was able to see again and meet for the first time some wonderful people from my and my family's past; as well, I was touched by pain, joy, loss, sorrow, prayer... sadness from grandparents who have a grandson who is very ill... an elderly friend was filled with delight at seeing my mother and had come with a loaded photo album of the past. The past being people she held dear, some who were present, some who'd moved on to the next life. I shared with her how comforting it was for me to have her husband come by after my dad had died when I was a teenager... we were renovating and her spouse was the workman my parents had hired just before Dad's death. We were blessed by fresh and new features in our home at a time of great sorrow, and what for my mom must have been a painful time of uncertainty. Both ladies had forgotten about the work and timing, "Oh is that right?! I had forgotten about that..." But we all have different remembrances and things are significant to us, past and present, for various reasons.

My sister reminisced with an old friend whose family had taken her in many times when her mother, my dad's first wife, was sick with cancer. Some grieving occurred that hadn't happened in 60 years, I imagine. We all have tears that haven't been shed yet, for whatever reason-- tears that have been stuffed, forgotten, and welling up for decades-- tears that must be shed for our load to be lighter. But O God, You who counts our tears, show us the hope amid the waters-- that they will not drown us, and that You will never leave us nor forsake us-- those that are Yours.

My friend said of the potluck, "this is my favorite kind of meal." I especially enjoyed Judy's beets and special mention to my well-behaved little girl who ate her meal (this is a big deal for little Jill) and didn't fuss much when I put a quota on her desserts.

It wasn't a program really for song, it was a time to relate; and hopefully, to spread the Word that there is someOne who desires relationship with us. God offers we sinners right standing with Him through His Son Jesus. Song isn't about song, the past not about the past, food and fun, not about that. It is about relationship, somehow. We can be present for it, or avoiding it, running from it, suffering from the lack of it. But there is One who is always there if we will turn to Him.

Father, bless your Church and show each person there a clear image of the tomorrow You have for them and their loved ones, give healing Your way and peace without measure. You are true to Your promises for a future and a hope for those who are found in You. May we be found right there.

My husband asked, "What are you going to do in the evenings now?" My next project is going to require quite a bit of preparation and I think I'll try to regroup to determine what exactly is on my plate. I'd really like to get into a studio again to record a couple new songs. Then get back to the original album.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Piano Man

Today was my brother Bruce's memorial service. I, along with my husband (vox), niece (flute), friend (violin), offered music. The musicians I played with today are awesome. The music was beautiful (save for my accidental accidentals :))... I look forward to playing some duets with my niece in the future for fun!... today, the very first time we've played together, what a gift... and with Joe and Michelle I'll be collaborating again in the next couple of weeks. The treat of that is that my children get to hobnob and play hard with my friend's five, count them five! children! They have so much fun... yes, the music was nice (upon arrival I asked a family friend to offer a verse in Swedish for "Children of the Heavenly Father" and she obliged. Lovely and sweet addition.) My niece said as she unpacked her shiny flute, "Well, this isn't the music Bruce would have wanted... but." She couldn’t help but chuckle, tongue in cheek and said with a fondness. But, I'm not certain that she is right. It's not what he would have played, but he was always affirming of the classical music emanating from the piano; to my voice, he quipped, "What'd ya do with the money Mom gave you for voice lessons?"... but re: keys, he was a true supporter, and would tell me I should audition for Julliard (he talked big) but I was neither convinced or motivated to that degree, and found my ego was kept in check by my other brother who, thankfully affirmed my vocalizations, but trampled on my keys, dutifully, nightly pounding retorts on the ceiling to my practice sessions (to which I’d dutifully and aggressively play louder.) But nevertheless. Back to the story, my niece was alluding to the fact that Bruce was a jammin' awesome piano man. I lamented I'd never 'experience' his piano again after he had had his stroke. Others remember it, too. Like Babette's food, there are those who knew and savored Bruce's piano.

We visited at the service with our friends for whom we will play again this year, church program for their senior group and it will be a great time. Preparation for it is really fun, like I said. Then I will be gearing up for a little studio time, since I have to get moving on it... new songs are bumping the old ones, and the old ones aren't recorded yet! I can't wait. And until then, I look forward to collaborating with some musicians for a special concert this spring or early summer. God-willing.

Bruce's favorites he'd faithfully play upon visiting my piano bench were "Something in the Way She Moves..." "The Entertainer" and "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" that he always played for the woman who married him and bore his children... he never stopped playing that song; for them, I think it was a love song. I'd stand and watch and nod, the piano would rock the house down, until the somber nostalgia of the tunes of yesterday and his expression would not allow me to move.

But, thanks be to God, I can move now. And so can he.

Until my next 'note' have a 'rest'-filled journey!