Thursday, March 31, 2011

Vocalise, Adagio, Jupiter and Movements

From 4th grade, I picked up my first violin. Being left-handed, I naturally wanted to play it backwards. Then can the fumblings over placing fingers on stickers and learning that Every Good Boy Does Fine. I remember the dreaded practice cards, trying to find the joy to do 15 or 30 minutes of practice in a day. Oh how it took so much energy, patience. I can only imagine the sounds that came from my room in those days.

Then came the days of blending melodies, practicing vibrato on pencils, and long practices. My freshman year, I was fortune enough to step on the stage of Carnegie Hall and play with 100 of my classmates. At that time, I could never realize (nor pronounce) the many famous people who have stepped out on that stage and expressed things that could and would never be put to words other than cres., adagio, rit., <, >, sharps and flats in black ink and faded papers.

In college, I continued to play, but in a different role. Instead of a symphony, it was an ensemble and a quartet. The delicacies of moving and breathing together. Playing first made me vulnerable, supposing to take lead but bringing everyone else out. Learned how to improvise with some friends as we played for some camps and church nights. Not just playing notes but feeling rhythms and movements.

Since then, I pick up my violin every once in a while, replaying an old contest piece by Hayden and playing alongside Lara on the piano. I am so glad a friend of our is getting some good use out of the KC String violin.

I never got too big into it as some of my classmates from high school did, interested in soccer, church, and my girlfriend at the time. I still can't tell you most of the famous pieces and who composed them or why someone decided to augment a certain note.

Vividly, I remember sitting in orchestra class in high school, rehearsing Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber. This isn't a very complicated piece on paper but once you start playing it, you'll understand the complexities. I enjoyed the piece, partly because it was slow, easy to follow despite some time changes. But as we were playing through the motions, Mrs. Grover stopped us and asked, "Do you know what you are playing?" We all rolled our eyes thinking that we were going to be on one of the rants about playing in the style of the time period. But what she asked and said after changed how I saw music forever.

"What do you see when you play this piece?"

Well, not being very imaginative, I was baffled and stumped. I'm not exactly the most emotional person, preferring my cognitive walls and boundaries.

So we stopped, closed our eyes, and listen to the piece. As tears came down her eyes, she explained how he saw two married people who have had a "good" marriage but things have been rocky, not seeing each other often and being tense every time they saw each other. As the song goes on, there is an argument that beginnings. Awkward, cautious but heated. They exchange sarcastic remarks, finding fault in each other. And then the climax, a full throttle of emotion. But there is the moment of realization - they love each other. A moment that floods back all the reasons why they married each other. With a heaviness, there is a calm. A peace.

As we played after the conversation, it clicked. Even though I've never been married at that time, I felt it. I understood it. Music became an experience not an event.

Music has become a glimpse into our human frailty, or God's grace, mercy, love. Don't get me wrong, I know that classical pieces aren't necessarily "pure." But as C.S. Lewis describes in The Great Divorce of a painter who originally painted because he wanted to tell people about light but he lost sight of the purpose. But as I sit here today, listening to Rachmaninov's Vocalise I remember the beauty of God's love for us, even in the depths of our pain, our hurt, our void.

May we hear the movements of God's kingdom, not just playing our piece but experience His reality, His grace, His mercy, His love.


Songs that have meant a lot to me (check them out on Grooveshark.com):
Adagio for Strings - Samuel Barber
Vocalise - Rachmaninov
String Quartet in C# minor - Beethoven
Jupiter - Holst
Fur Elise - Beethoven

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

love begins with being alone

One of the things I consistently struggle with in ministry is overload. I feel the press and the demand. They pile; I stagger. I can only give what I receive, and if you gaze into this heart, you really might see: a lot of the time, the gas gauge hovers above empty. I doggedly putt through my schedule and hand out dry bones and stale bread along the way.

This is not the life I am meant to live.

This is not the true life.

The Lord met me today with these words from Jill Briscoe.

"A leader loves. The love of God is shed abroad by the Holy Spirit which is given to You. He will touch your hard, unloving heart and create a warm, loving one instead.

How?

Alone.

They won't be touched until you are touched! Get near enough to me, Christ says, so I can take you in my hands like those loaves and fishes. Let me touch you, and when I do I'll bless you and break you and give you to the people. Then they will all be satisfied. They will know you love them...leaders who love must know what it is to be alone."

I know that the Jesus blessed Mary for sitting at His feet, and I know He rebuked Martha for her flustered, full service. I know this in my head. Yet in action, I refute it again and again. The love that Christ desires to spread through us is not achieved by activity, or motion, or good intentions. It is love born from relationship.

Oh! That we would be people desperate enough for Christ that we bulldoze all the scaffolding. That we would set fire to the planks, the props, the programs used to maintain appearance and satisfy our ego. That we would start new, at the feet of Him whose love is enough, and we would come with no other agenda but to know Him.

Monday, March 28, 2011

inspiration today

"Love is a long day's labor with joy for another.
It is spending ourselves until we forget ourselves for another.
It is giving ourselves until we forget what is given us.
True love does not bargain.

It begs to bless."

-john drescher

She remembered then what it meant to love. The hardened heart, set in obedience toward the Sun, melts like an ice-cube in Southern heat. What began with gritted teeth and compelled hands becomes an exercise of joy, the forced becomes free. Love invades, and it changes us all.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Breaking in the Spring

It's Spring Break! Wahoo! We love Spring Break!

We went camping with a bunch of kids we love.

Jumped off high platforms and spun around, otherwise known as barnswinging.

Ate too much at Lambert's Cafe, home of the original throwed roll.


The last time I remember barnswinging and eating at Lambert's was when I was 14 or 15 in my youth group. Am I old enough to be on the other side?

Now home from camping, and we're working on some home projects. Aaron is taking a bunch of boards and hammering out magic.


I am amazed by my husband, who is willing to learn any handyman skill and has great results. I told him earlier in the year I thought it would be great if we had bookcases on either side of our fireplace that looked like built-ins. Our house was built in the 30s and has Craftsman features, and I thought bookcases would add to the charm.


Who needs Ikea when you've got da Weaver?

While Aaron works on becoming the next Bob Vila, I am painting our bedroom.

Goodbye peachy tan that has always sort of bothered me. In the big scheme of things, I know peachy bedroom paint doesn't matter. But for a 11 dollar gallon of paint at Walmart, we are on our way to a soft gray oasis for marital bliss. Doesn't that sound like a good deal for 11 dollars?


Painting clothes + cold weather = very strange outfit. But we're at home and no one cares! I love wearing ridiculous, comfortable outfits. There was one year of college where I dressed up and wore make-up every single day in an effort to secure the affections of the campus dreamboat, and that was dumb. There are times for dressing up, but dad-gummed if I don't like the sweatpant days 100 times better.

So here we are, Aaron in his backwards cap and me in my stockings and cut-off sweats, and we couldn't be having a better Spring Break. We are listening to old-school Waterdeep which takes me right back to being 16 and to newer-school Jon Foreman which takes me right back to the spring Aaron and I started dating.

We're breaking in the spring, and it feels just right. Comfy as my soft, holey sweats.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Oatmeal, Coffee, and Psalm 107


There you go.

The secret to a slam bang morning.

You're welcome. I like to share my secrets.

You may remember this post, where I bashed oatmeal. I officially revoke my unkind words about the nutritious, heart-healthy grain. Turns out I wasn't using the right proportions, which was causing my oatmeal to resemble the work of a preschool artist who uses way too much glue. Yummy, right? Well, after a quick read of the box and a commitment to memory of the 1:2 ratio, I am back on the bus with oatmeal.

Here are some tricks for oatmeal you should know about.

-Read the box. I mentioned this already.
-Add raisins.
-Douse with a stream of 2% or whole milk after cooking.
-Peanut butter is really tasty on top of oatmeal. (I learned this trick from a friend in college. I'm not sure if the picture appeals to you or grosses you out. Regardless, give it the ol' college try yourself.)

Oatmeal is always better with coffee. I often wish that I had a little kitchen gnome that made my coffee seconds before I stumbled into the kitchen, and there it would sit, piping hot and aromatic, not a minute too old. Sometimes I try making it the night before, and 8 hours later, I think that was a great idea. In the clear thought of mid-morning, however, I stand convinced a gnome is the very best idea.

Now I find myself in the tricky position of trying to transition from gnomes to the Psalms.

I am amazed this morning by the faithfulness of God.

I went for an early walk before oatmeal, coffee, or any of these crazy mind trails (gnomes?). The sky looked like this.

10 hours of sleep is a balm to many troubles, and waking to white cookie clouds iced with golden light is joy for the day.

I walk around the block, and the world is mostly sleeping, slowly waking. Cars with school kids roll past, a truck with a farmer on his way to MFA. Tree branches hang hopeful with the first thrusts of new life, tulip shoots creep to five inches and build toward bud.

God is in the spring.

With this walking song, I return to the couch, open Psalm 107. God is in everything. I read it and remember my own wanderings, my own prisons, my own afflictions, and my own stormy seas. It's not the best hermeneutics, I'm sure, but it is the heart melting under the heat of the logos. I see my unfaithfulness in the light of His faithfulness, and I am

undone

amazed

grateful.

The heart of man is prone to wander, but the heart of God is not. Eternal, unchanging, unshaken. There is no one like our God, who is magnified even by the wretchedness of man.

"Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord." -Psalm 107:43

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bringing out the box

Tonight we decided to bring out the box. As Lara procrastinated from completing her sweep of the house (which I am utterly amazed at her work), she let her nostalgic side come out, looking through old picture of us that included painting the K-Life house together before we even started dating.
This is the night Lara came over to help me paint the K-Life house kitchen checkered back in the beginning of 2008. Who knew that we would have some much fun?!

After, I roped Lara into hanging with some of my friends: Atefeh, RockyB, Fivi, and Wedemeyer.


Lara is a sucker for the nostalgic. Mention a memory from childhood, college, or come home with a new haircut and she will already be missing them, listing twenty memories along the way. In a lot of ways, I envy her. Sometimes I forget the meaning of the past that brought us where we are at.
So tonight we brought out the box; a box filled with notes, letters, drawings, poems, pictures, old napkins with chicken scratches dating back to the summer of 2007. Four years documented in words, phrases, hidden meanings, dreams, confusions, and images.

A letter I wrote Lara while I lived with the Jones' after I broke my elbow and before I left to work at KAA. The beginnings of something we didn't know anything about. Just I liked her.
And it has turned into this great pile of meaning
Ironic we have put it in a Priority Mail box.

It's crazy looking back at the things we wrote each other. Each putting forth our best but still trying to not be too vulnerable. It's like listening to a waltz on a record player with some fumbles, some scratches, and some glorious moves. But the one constant rhythm, in three quarter time, was a gracious love from God intertwining two being together. That's the beauty of remembering. As C.S. Lewis, we spend so much of our time trying to recreate our memories when they are not yet complete. The fulness is still being written. The quartet still pulses. Our feet keep gliding along in the glorious dance. There still are some fumbles, tuggings for the lead, some scratches on the surface but the beat of His love pulses through us. There is no other one I would like to dance with than you, darling.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Go watch this

The next time you have eight free hours, watch this.

We watched it first this summer in Colorado.

We watched it again over the last two months, spread between weekend nights and snitched free hours.

It is magnificent. You will like it. It's probably better than everything Hollywood put out this year. I can't promise for sure because I normally don't like to watch movies. I did see the Justin Bieber movie at the theater, which was one of those things I did for the love of my small group girls.

In closing, I promise you, you need some new friends. And their names are Esther, Ada, Richard, Mr. Jarndyce, and Lady Dedlock. And they live in that case up there.

Of the only post I have ever written about a movie, I say,

the end.



Saturday, March 12, 2011

Iowa surprises

When in need of a spring pick-me-up trip, most people turn to Iowa.

What, you hadn't thought of that?

Funny, I just assumed you had.

Ok, Iowa is not exactly the world's top vacation destination. If it weren't for my dear friend Nicole, we wouldn't have ventured there. She and her husband are living in Grinell, Iowa, for a few months as they train to move overseas in May. I don't think I can post the country where they are moving, but let's just say it is even less of a vacay destination than Iowa.

We wanted to see them before they left, so Iowa called our names and we answered.

My friendship with Nicole began junior year of college. We had mutual friends before that, but we had the wrong impressions of each other. I thought she liked boys too much and was a little too crazy; she thought I was awkwardly quiet and a little too serious. (Did I get that right, Nic?) First week of junior year that all changed when I helped her move her whole car-load of stuff into our second floor dorm hall. I did it because I was her RA and that's what RAs do, but she took it as a genuine gesture, and I am so glad she did, because that year we became fast friends!

After a few months, this is what her craziness did to my dormant crazy side:


Has to be my favorite picture of us. Just one of the many random times we dressed up during college.

Nicole and I discovered our mutual love for coffee that year too. This was a big deal to me, because I knew few people who loved the caffeinated stuff as deeply as I did. I would tiptoe into her room early in the morning to borrow her monstrous 12-cup machine when my 4-cup mini wasn't cutting it. She would tiptoe into my room the next morning after I forgot to return it and steal it back.

We became the queens of spontaneous outings, beginning with Road Trip Wednesdays and Kung Fun Breakfast Club, and culminating in our crowning glory, the Easter trip to Florida. We convinced three guys to take a 15 hour road trip with us to Nicole's aunt's house in Destin, and it was the most fun I ever had on a college trip.



A bit of the history for you. Back to Iowa. We forgot our camera, so many of the small beauties of Grinnell will here remain undocumented. The pictures I do have I sweet-talked Nicole into sending me. We will say we were pleasantly surprised by Iowa in many ways. Grinnell and Des Moines, the closest city, both have a Colorado-outdoorsy feel, and of course, A and I are big fans of that.

Aaron got to spend one day helping Jonathan with a soybean project. Jonathan is learning the ways of soybeans as that will be their job in the country they're moving too. Aaron wanted to join him--he finds physical labor a fun deviation from his regular job which is heavy on office duties and people time. (The project was fun, but did not enamor Aaron to soybeans more; I tried making tofu upon our return and it was a total bust.)

Nicole and I mainly just talked. Which is what we do best. She makes me laugh a tremendous amount; in return, she laughs at a lot of the things I say. Everyone needs a friend like that. Nicole is one of the most joyful, bubbly people I know. She sees life as an adventure, and she will buckle you in for the ride regardless of your initial excitement. Everyone needs a friend like that.

We also ate a lot. I am thinking back through my memories, and most of them include food in some form.

A coffee date. Who better to have it with than my coffee partner in cream? I mean, crime?


Lunch at a local pizza place.


Nicole and Jonathan with their teammate, Joe.


We got to meet their team and pray and fellowship with them. What a sweet night! So good to be reminded of the Kingdom of God and how God's people are carrying that out all over the world. We were stretched as we sat with people who are stretching hard themselves toward Christ.

Iowa, thank you for taking good care of my dear friend. Nicole, I love you like I love sim-sim balls, and that is more than you think! :) You are such a joy and encouragement to me! Thanks for blazing the trail in marriage and now in overseas work; I love watching you forge ahead.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Germination


It begins with a 10 cent package of half-used Jiffy pots. A treasure of last fall's garage sale season. I toss them on a corner shelf in our shed, and they sit in the coldness of winter.

In February, I buy seeds at Wal-mart. The cheap packs are priced at a dollar and don't come in waterproof foil packages. Spinach, tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and eggplant. I feel reckless and buy some flower seeds. Columbine, delphinium, johnny jump up, and forget-me-not. At the self-checkout lane, I discover tiny, papery seed envelopes do not register on the scale. I can't enjoy self-checkout for reasons just as this, but I always think next time will be different. I scan, bag, and the machine voice scolds me. Repeat. And again. The man on duty comes over to help. "Buying seeds, early, eh?" he says. I try to be gracious. "Trying to get a head start, I guess."

Last Sunday, I plant the seeds that take longer than a week to germinate. They are tucked in peat pots now and covered with Saran-Wrap, and they sit dark and damp on the bottom shelf of my pantry.

Today, I sit in front of God and I think of all the cares still in my heart, though the grace given me tells me to cast them at His feet.

Our numbers are down...we've lost contact with certain kids...how do we show God's love to T. when our lives are so different than hers...are we being effective...are we hindering or helping the spread of the Gospel here...I am tired of being hospitable...there
is not enough time...oh and my energy has evaporated.

I open the chronological Bible plan. Psalms today.

Psalm 93:3
"The seas have lifted up, O Lord,
the seas have lifted up their voice,
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves."

I feel the pounding waves on my heart. Life is pounding, and for whatever reason, this is the month where it seems all four great oceans of Earth have lifted up their breakers against me, and I am nearly drowned.

But the Great Spirit of God gently taps, and He hands an image through mind's door. Those seeds, silent and still in the kitchen. They will germinate in the right conditions. I bought the organic seed starter soil mix. I put them in a place that is warm. I spritzed the surface of each pot with just enough water.

In the right atmosphere, any seed can grow.

I am germinating worry and fear and a general sense of "overwhelmedness". The pounding waves begin with small seeds, and my soul is the pot in which their life begins. Do the conditions of my heart germinate life, peace, joy, truth, and hope? Or do they germinate worry, fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and discontent?

Water with truth, the Spirit urges me today. Water with the Word.

Psalm 93:3 is not the watering word today. There is another:

"Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea--
the Lord on high is mighty." (vs. 4)

The Lord on high is mighty.

That seed is the one I will plant in furrows all up and down my heart.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

His somethingness

Hello old friends.

Let's say it now once and for all. We are the kind of friends that jump right in where we left off. I wish I wrote more. I wish I talked to you more through this bloggy telephone line, but sometimes, the silence grows, and I don't even realize it. Today I bring words, but no pictures. We thought we lost our camera, and I found it last night at my parent's house. When Aaron came to get me minutes before midnight, I was late-night cranky and pushing to get home and guess what? Yep, I left it there again.

Here I am, after weeks' quiet, and I have no pictures.

Are you still there? :)

I went for a run last week. Before I left, I laced up my New Balance and ranted to Aaron. The stuff of the day, the mess of the week, the parcel of the whole heavy year. He gave me that look that means, "Why don't you just run, and hopefully you'll run some of this out." So I quit talking and started running.

Pound, pound, pound. Pass the dogs that bark at me every single time. They are three bandits in one small concrete yard. When one starts the fury, the other two follow. Pound, pound, pound, leave the dogs behind. Turn right on Locust Street, up to the empty Dunnegan mansion.

"Lord," I say. "There are too many layers in my life. It's like a never-ending lasagna, Lord." (And, actually I was a little proud of this analogy as it formed.) "Meat, cheese, sauce, noodle, meat, cheese, sauce, noodle, and I am feeling SQUISHED!"

Do you have these too, reader-friend? Lasagna days where you wonder how much substance can be pressed into one pan of a day and it feels like too much and it seems to be spilling out the sides and corners and overflowing the top?

"I think you picked the wrong person for this job, Lord."

No epiphanies on the run, but I did come home a little calmer. Aaron was surely relieved.

This morning, I'm reading a book by a sweet British woman, Jill Briscoe, on the challenges of being a woman and wife in ministry. I found my heart punctuating many of her thoughts with a bold exclamation mark. Yes! This is how I feel! Someone knows! I am understood! Someone else has found Jesus in the midst of this!

One of the things she talks about is not to measure our success in ministry by numbers, by crowds, by the success of other programs, or by how we are measuring up to our predecessors. "Our nothingness," she writes, " gives God a chance to fill us with His somethingness...little is much when God is in it."

God has been reducing me to little. It is not something I cheer for, but my heart is filled with a strange anticipation. Knowing this is the prelude to something more than the stretched-out, over-baked, squished-down woman I've been. There are so many giants in this ministry, and I focus squarely on them, on my nothingness, my littleness. I am adolescent David in front of powerful Goliath.

Yet even in my misplaced focus, God appears. "I am bigger," He is saying. "Did I not put you here? Will I not sustain you where I lead you? Am I not bigger than any foe you perceive?"

In all the worn out dryness of the last couple weeks, I find that He is there. And all the lack in me is an empty field for Him to pile up His strength.