Advent 12-01-15: Wait

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Luke 1:78-79

I’ve never heard anyone say waiting is easy.

Sometimes the waiting is full of dread: Waiting for test results; waiting to start therapies; waiting outside the principal’s office…

Sometimes the waiting is frustrating: Waiting in traffic; waiting through commercials; waiting for a break in the rain…

But sometimes the waiting is full of hope and excitement: Waiting for vacation; waiting for the big party; waiting for the coffee to brew…

Wait

… or waiting for the Messiah to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

 

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Advent 11-30-15: Prepare

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight–indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 3:1

2015 is the year of being prepared for Christmas. Not just that I have nearly all my shopping done. Or the fact that I have the tree up (nothing else at the moment). Or even the fact that I’ve calendared all my holiday shenanigans on my iPhone.

I am prepared to fully experience the holiness of Christmas.

Prepare - Feature

Every night I put effort into preparing for bed. First I put on my pajamas and my warm slippers to insulate the soles of my feet from the cold bathroom tile. Then I wash my face, brush my teeth, and apply lip balm and hand cream. One that’s done, I put my phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode and settle in for a good night’s sleep. I could easily go to bed without the rituals, but it would be noticed. I wouldn’t sleep as well because something would be missing.

I’m seeing this holy season as kind of the same thing. I can just wing it and show up on Christmas day, but something would be missing. Instead I’m intentionally preparing myself for the event by reading specific scriptures, praying specific prayers, and listening for God. Already Christmas is feeling more reverent than it has in years past.

Advent 11-29-15: Hope

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”
Jeremiah 33:14-16

This past Sunday I wasn’t necessarily in the mood to go to church. The last couple of months have been sort of crazy – I was traveling a lot in October and into November – and frankly, I just kind of got out of the habit.

While I don’t believe church should be a chore (if it is then there are some weighty issues to be considered), for me it needs to be a Sunday priority and when it drops on the importance scale I feel it in my soul. So I bucked up and got ready and off Todd and I went.

And I was blessed. I spent the majority of the service with tears streaming down my face. Not sad tears, mind you, but tears that flow from a Spirit-shattered heart. It all started with child dedication and when I, as part of the congregation, verbally vowed to help raise these children in the faith, I choked up.

What always moves me, no exceptions, is when we sing. When we pour out our hearts and souls in worshipful song. Some days are more powerful than others, and this Sunday was close to epic. Todd reached over and offered me his sleeve because, let me tell you, I was a hot mess.

“How Great Thou Art” is one of those hymns that thaw out my numbed and frozen spirit and it certainly did that on Sunday. But even more provoking was “Scandal of Grace”. Those lyrics always speak to me. Always.

Hope

Just as Jesus was the hope Jeremiah spoke of, he’s still and forever our hope.

Bragging Rights

I love our church and Sunday mornings are nearly always a joy for me. But there’s one Sunday each year that is my absolute favorite. Student Worship Sunday. This year it happened last Sunday, July 1st.

Yes, I’m a bit partial to one of the singers, seeing as how I birthed her and all. But there is something so moving about watching these kids – all of them – use their incredible talents to lead the congregation in worship.

This first video is of the worship set. The members of the band are: Eric, Student Arts Pastor, guitar and vocals (the dude leading the band); Brad (no relation, though he calls me Mom and I call him son), lead guitar; JC (not actually a student, but all the drummers were out of town so he helped out), drums; Joelle, bass; Erin, keyboards; Katie and Ashley, vocals.

Worship (07-01-12) from CHRIST’S CHURCH OF THE VALLEY on Vimeo.

This next is the communion set with Eric and Katie.

07-01-12 Communion from CHRIST’S CHURCH OF THE VALLEY on Vimeo.

Last (and most definitely least) is a promotional video that Eric and Adam, our High School Pastor, put together for Stretch. Stretch is our very awesome middle school event. And as an added note, Eric wrote this song the night before they filmed this. It’s too bad they don’t have any fun at work.

2012 Stretch Full Throttle Music Video from CHRIST’S CHURCH OF THE VALLEY on Vimeo.

Thankful – Day Thirteen

Today I’m thankful for music. I love, adore, cherish, treasure, esteem, etc., music. I love to listen to all types of music – classical, rock, alternative, Christian, blue grass, jazz, gospel, country – to name a few. I also love to sing and/or play my piano, albeit for my ears only. Music makes long road trips worth every minute. It also makes housework easier. It can soothe me or pump me up.

Sometimes it’s the melody. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is so beyond beautiful to me that it makes me cry. Even when I play the first movement on the piano I’m sometimes moved to tears. Of course, that might be more because of my playing and my cursed short fingers. But you get the idea. There are some pieces of music that are as breathtaking as the most beautiful sunset.

Sometimes it’s the crazy, wonderful beat. House work is so much more bearable when I can bop around (with no one to watch) and it just makes the time fly by.

Sometimes it’s the songs that are fun to sing. Katie and I always have a great time when we plug in the iPod and sing along as we’re driving around – the longer the trip the better!

And sometimes it’s the meaning behind the words. For me personally (and I know a lot of others are the same way) singing is the greatest form of worship. I can feel far from God one minute and then feel his presence acutely in the next minute as I sing praises to Him. I have my mornings when I pick up my Bible or try to pray and feel absolutely nothing. When that happens I stop what I’m doing and sing. Maybe it’s an old hymn or maybe it’s a new worship song – it doesn’t really make any difference. Then all of a sudden my heart starts to melt and I am no longer an automaton just doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I am engaged and enthralled and I’m not just reading some book. I’m reading a love letter written to me. (Okay. I give. So sometimes I’m reading something really heinous and violent with not a lot of love, but it’s still a really great book and God’s fingerprints are all over it.) Or if I’m praying I’m no longer just talking to the air. I’m chatting with the creator of the universe. THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE!

It would be great if I could sing like Idina Menzel or play the piano like Liberace, but I can’t and I’m okay with it. The enjoyment these centuries of gifted musicians provide to me is priceless. And I’m so thankful that something as simple as a pleasant tune can turn my day around. I’m thankful that I grew up in a home where music was appreciated and sometimes even revered and that legacy, if you will, has been passed down.

An on that note (pun intended), I think I’ll go play my piano now.

Thankful – Day Ten

This morning as I was getting ready for work I had one of those, “blech” moments. You know, when you look at yourself in the mirror and go, “blech”. Sometimes it’s the clothes, sometimes it’s the hair, sometimes it’s the make up. Today it was the eyes.

I’ve always had a love/hate like/dislike relationship with my eyes. On the one hand, I’ve always liked the shape of my eyes. They’re maybe not as large as I would like, but they have a nice almond appearance. On the other hand, however, I’ve always disliked the deep circles under my eyes. They’re not deep set exactly, but the hollows under my eyes are very pronounced. It only takes a quick look at my eyes to know if I’m exhausted or sick. When someone looks at my eyes they don’t see the nice shape of them. Instead they see the depressions above my cheekbones. And I won’t even go into the color (diarrhea brown).

So as I’m having this “blech” moment this morning, the image of a friend’s daughter popped into my head. She’s blind. She could care less about the shape of her eyes or the valley beneath them or their color. To say I felt about as big as the tiniest ant would be an understatement. And it gave me my “thankful” subject for today.

I’m thankful for my sight. Not just the fact that I have pretty good vision, but the fact that I see the world around me. I’m thankful for the incredible beauty that surrounds me every day. The other day as I was driving home from work I was so overwhelmed by the dazzling autumn scenery I nearly had to force myself to breathe. The sun was setting behind me and the reds and golds and oranges scattered across the rolling pastures looked almost to be on fire. If that wasn’t enough there was the slightest hint of a rainbow in the east. Such a rare gift and I was blessed beyond imagination to see it. I got a glimpse of God’s glory and it was magnificent.

My friend’s daughter will never get to see the blazing hues of fall or the brilliant colors of a rainbow and for that I’m sorry. However, she’s okay with it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty sure she has moment when she wishes she could see what the hubbub is all about. But she can hear things most of us never will, no matter how hard we strain. She plays the piano with an effortless ease and it’s all by ear. The most important thing, though? She’s happy. And for that I’m thankful.

A Little This, A Little That

Geezo, peezo. I move over to this brand-spankin’ new blog and then I don’t post anything. What’s up with that? I don’t really have anything to write about so I’ll just go random here.

***

I’m tired of hot weather. I wish it was fall.

***

Todd and I are watching “Purple Rain”. Why? I have no idea. Other than it’s a little nostalgic for us. We saw it the first summer we dated in 1984. The next day I came down with the flu. I don’t believe there’s a connection, but if I end up really sick tomorrow we’ll know why.

***

I’m done with summer.

***

Taylor and Katie were in the worship band last night at church, Taylor’s last time before leaving for school. I taped it with our Sony Handycam and I can’t download it to the computer because the software is outdated. We bought it in 2005! I spent a few hours last night getting an online update from Sony and doing everything they told me to do and it still doesn’t work. Eventually we’ll get it figured out (“we’ll” as in Todd) and I’ll be able to download (or is that upload) the video and you’ll be able to watch. They’re awesome. Of course, I’m a little very biased.

***

Fallish weather would be nice.

***

Speaking of Taylor, we drive him to college on Saturday. I’m not thinking about the coming home without him part. I choose to think of it as a road trip, complete with car snacks and a stop at Cracker Barrel.

***

I’m ready for fall.

***

Preschool starts in a few weeks which means we’re in gear up mode at work. I’m a little concerned because I’m not concerned. Know what I mean? 

***

Did I mention I wish it was fall?

***

Purple Rain is over and now we’re watching Journey in concert. The new Journey with the new singer. He sounds eerily just like Steve Perry! He’s also very thin and has long dark hair so if you squint he even looks like Steve Perry. Freaky!

***

I hear thunder rumbling outside. Mayhap that means fall is coming!

My Rock Star

Sunday night Katie sang lead on one of the songs at Youth Group. One of the tech guys (Thanks Flitter!!) graciously taped it for us on his own camera and made a YouTube video for us. The sound isn’t premium, but it’s not horrible. Sadly, Taylor is playing guitar stage left but he’s not in the video. That will have to wait for another time.

So now, without further ado, I give you Katie, singing “Mighty To Save”

The Week in Review

It doesn’t seem like much has been going on and yet I have lots to share. And I know how much you all are dying to know the happenings of my life. *snort*

UPDATE ON TODD

Hearken back to Monday’s post where I mentioned Todd’s virtual forehead tattoo which says If It Can Go Wrong It Will. And as I said in Tuesday’s post, the surgery may not have gone the best way, but it still went very well. Now let me fill you in on the rest of the week.

On Wednesday the oral surgeon called just to check on Todd and said he was probably at the peak of swelling so most likely it was pretty painful but he should have considerable relief by the next day. Not so. We went back in to the office on Thursday because the pain actually seemed to be getting worse. Or if not worse, at least different and as intense. Turns out he has a hematoma which is painful enough in itself. But it’s also pressing on the nerve that runs in the jaw, causing excruciating pain and strange numbness. So they upped his pain medication and told him to come back on Friday. There was no change on Friday so they also prescribed Naprosin to help with the swelling and Valium to help with the muscle spasms caused by the nerve disturbance.

Did I not tell you If It Can Happen It Will? This is really par for the course for poor Todd. And sadly for him I am way low on the compassion scale. I’m the one that tells the kid with the gaping wound, “It’s just a scratch! Rub some dirt in it, you pansy!” Not really. I’ve never said that or even thought it. But still, I was probably off chatting with someone and didn’t hear my name called when God was passing out the gift of compassion.

Thankfully he’s starting to get a little relief. It’s still pretty painful, but nothing like it was. And Katie has stopped calling him John McCain because the swelling has gone down so there is that. We go back to the surgeon for his regular follow up tomorrow and hopefully things will be as they should be.

CHURCH

Apparently there weren’t enough people who came to the new 8:00 service to make it worth it so they’ve gone back to only three services. Today I went to the 11:30 service like I used to and it was awesome! It’s the service that most of the youth goes to so there’s a ton of energy. Of course, it helps that I’m actually awake and have been sufficiently caffeinated. We also sang You Lifted Me Out by Chris Tomlin. Awesome, awesome song!

CHANGE IN STATUS

I’ve been thinking about going back to work after more than 13 years of being at home. This is an entire post in itself so I won’t go into detail here, but I am starting to explore some job possibilities. I’m thankful I have the luxury to be a little picky and I know I won’t work full time. Tomorrow I’ll be chatting with someone about a potential position and we’ll see. She may decide I’m not the right person or I might decide it’s not the right job. I just pray I follow God’s will in this and not my own.

REVOLVE 2008

This weekend was the Philadelphia Revolve Tour and our girls attended for the third year in a row. It was the first year, however, that I did not go. I was a little sad because it’s such an incredible experience – not just for the teen girls, but for the women that take them as well. However, as I lay on the couch half asleep Friday night I decided it was a good thing I didn’t go.

When I picked up Katie yesterday evening I felt loved by several of the girls who had hugs for me and told me they missed me. Whether or not they meant it or were just being nice, I don’t care. It was very sweet.

If you have a preteen or teenage girl I highly recommend Revolve. It’s an experience they’re not likely to forget for a long time.

Taylor went with me to pick up Katie because he desired a little one on one with me on the way to the church and he missed his little sister tremendously. Oh, and because he would get to see Kristen for a couple of minutes. That may have had something to do with it. On our way home Katie was talking a mile a minute and finally Taylor said, “If talking was an Olympic sport you would bring home the gold in every.single.category! You can sprint and run the distance, all at the same time!” Truer words were never said.

She was sound asleep on the couch by 8:00.

Where Do I Begin??

There’s just so much to tell that I’m not sure how to go about it. So I think I’ll just do a bit of a timeline.

Wednesday PM

I pick up Sing 4 Joy and God’s Guitar Girl from the Philadelphia airport, arriving at my house some time between 10:00 and 10:30. GGG has a migraine so she hits the sack while S4J stays up to restring her 12 string guitar. I hang out with her for a while, but by 1:30 I have to go to bed. I totally forget to give her a blanket and she freezes. Lucky for me, she doesn’t hold it against me.

Thursday AM

We get up, eat a little breakfast and get ready to go into the city. I turn on the TV to check the traffic report. The weather grid has a Star of David next to a P on Thursday and no Star of David, but a P on Friday. Here’s the conversation:

GGG: What’s up with the Ps and the Star of David?

Me: That’s the Phillies P. Thursday night the Jewish Phillies are playing and Friday is the Gentile Phillies.

Not funny? Well it was when it happened.

While waiting for everyone else, S4J decides to tune her guitar and play a few songs. Did you know she sounds like what you would imagine an angel to sound like? Seriously. She has this beautiful soprano, crystal clear voice. And then GGG comes down stairs and starts harmonizing with S4J and it’s amazing.

Oh. I forgot to mention the kids are out of school. We stop to pick up Kristen, Taylor’s girlfriend, and then make a quick pass through Valley Forge before heading into Philadelphia. The kids and I already have plans to go to the Franklin Institute to see the Pirates Exhibit (totally the bomb) and S4J and GGG want to touch the Liberty Bell and eat a cheesesteak. So I drive them to the Independence Hall Visitor Center, pull over and kick let them out.

Thursday PM-ish

The kids and I go on to the museum and have a great time there. Meanwhile, my friends from Hawaii drive to the city from New Brunswick and I periodically talk to Stephanie on the phone trying to figure out when we can meet up. Meeting up doesn’t work out and the kids and I eat at a delicious hole in the wall across from the museum. We then drive back to our house.

At this same time S4J and GGG have touched the Liberty Bell, run through the Independence Hall tour and eaten the required Philly Cheesesteak, and are now on a SEPTA train headed to the airport. They meet up with His Girl and the two other Chicas, Liswilla and Junus. All five of them deal with Attila the Car Rental Clerk and finally head for The Cheesecake Factory at King of Prussia in their white minivan.

Thursday PMer

Taylor and Kristen and I leave for KOP with GGG and S4J’s stuff. I drop them off at one entrance and then park in the deck across from the Cheesecake Factory. Soon a white minivan full of crazy Chicas shows up, we transfer the luggage and guitars and head in for a delicious dinner. While we’re waiting for our food Stephanie and her family come to KOP and I leave the party for a few minutes to talk with them outside the restaurant. They’re going to browse the mall and we decide to meet up after dinner. While I’m away the Chicas play with my camera and take all manner of photos which will be shown on this very blog in the near future.

We eat, we laugh, we chat, we just generally have a great time. Afterwards the Chicas are anxious to get to their house in Amish country and rest up after a hard day of traveling. I locate Stephanie’s family and get to visit with them for another 30 minutes or so. I find Taylor and Kristen and we leave for home, dropping Kristen off on the way.

Friday AM

I’m not feeling so hot. Maybe too much food the night before? Most likey. I’ve also probably lost whatever weight I gained eating said food.

Friday PM

My morning ailment has passed. I drive to the Chica’s Amish basecamp for dinner, a devo and a little praise and worship. OH, and a whole lotta laughing! It is so much fun AND reviving at the same time. These girls are wicked funny.

Friday Way-PM

I leave the house at 11:15 and drive through an abandoned Lancaster which was totally creepy in a Children of the Corn kind of way. So I sang my Jesus music with the iPod at the top of my lungs. I make it home to see Todd for the first time since the previous Sunday when he left on a business trip.

Saturday

Nothing exciting whatsoever to write home about. It was just nice to hang out with Todd.

Sunday AM

Todd and Taylor go to first service and Todd writes mean things about me, calling me a heathen and all, on the attendance card. I attend the second service and work the third, dispelling any hint of heathenism with the gracious giving of my time.

Sunday PM

I drive to Lititz to catch up with the Chicas and find them at an ice cream parlor. I lamely park my car, as usual, and jump in their van. We drive over to the General Sutter Inn on Main Street for dinner. S4J will be posting food pictures at some point on her blog.

After dinner we head to Calvary Chapel Lancaster for their evening service. Turns out it’s a very small congregation and they don’t have services on Sunday evenings. Instead a group meets for a chapter by chapter study of the Bible. Not at all what we are looking for. But the people are so gracious and they move from the small table to the meeting room next door. The pastor encourages S4J and GGG to grab their guitars from the van and we have an impromptu worship service before delving into a few of the Psalms. What an incredible blessing it turns out to be.

Sadly, I have to say goodbye to the Chicas until the next time I might get to hang out with them.

Monday AM

My take on the Chicas. S4J, His Girl and GGG are EXACTLY the way they seem in their blogs. Funny, gracious, kind-hearted, serious about their faith – all you have to do is read their blogs and you know them. Liswilla and Junus don’t have blogs, but it’s obvious why they’re friends with these women. Sweet, fun, great sense of humor… just a few ways to describe both of them and I’m so glad I got to meet them.

I’m finally finishing this post. I know I’m leaving out so very much, but I’ll post more as it all comes to me. I just had to get this up with my spin before the rest of the Chicas get home to their computers and tell their side of the story!!