Archive for the ‘Joy’ Category

Silliness and Joy

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

This week I learned that Gina, a friend from college, passed away from cancer.

I had lost touch with Gina over the years, but found her again recently through Facebook and through the wonderful book she’d written about poetry and walking meditation, Camino Davina. It was obvious she was still living a vibrantly joyful life.

So I was thinking about the summer I got to know her and the lessons I learned that year, and how timely it is for me to think about those lessons.

Before the summer of 1984, I was mainly friends with Gina’s sister Jill, who was the same year as me at Biola, but I got to know Gina in her own right that summer.

It was the summer before my senior year, and like every summer when I was at Biola, I worked full-time in the computer services department as a programmer for the university. The summer before, I hadn’t had many friends around to eat lunches with, but *this* summer, my sister Becky was also working at Biola (She was already married by then and had just graduated from Biola, so it was good to get to see her.) and so were Jill and Gina. The four of us started having lunch together five days a week.

I was twenty years old, freshly out of my teens and thinking about putting away childish things and embracing the childlike.

And — we ended up forming a club that celebrated being silly. (Well, I just found a history of the club that I wrote in 1985, and Jill and I had already formed the club. But we added in Becky and Gina, and the club took off that summer.) We took club names of Jolly Jill, Jovial Gina, Batty Becky, and Silly Sondy.

The club was about embracing Silliness and our theme was Joy. Our standard greeting/farewell was “Joy to you!”

We felt sorry for August, because it didn’t have any holidays. So we invented 31 silly holidays for August, beginning with August Sillies’ Day on August 1st, and we found silly ways to celebrate them all. I remember that McIntosh computers were new at Biola, and I made an August Holidays calendar using its fancy fonts. [Huzzah! I just found the calendar filed away!]

The four of us took a trip to Disneyland in there (probably on Disney Day). We got pictures with characters. We screamed on the rides. Whenever we heard music coming from Snow White’s Wishing Well, we ran over and sang along in Snow White voices.

But it was really fun exploring the connection between Silliness and Joy. And Childlikeness. That was when we realized that you never *lose* your previous ages. If that were true, then each year you’d only be One. No, I still am seven years old, and I am still twenty years old — a lot more ages, too, though!

I also developed my Sparkle Theory. Every human desperately needs Sparkles. If they aren’t obvious in your life, you need to go look for them.

Tied with that, the most obvious kind of sparkles to a twenty-year-old girl are romantic ones. (Okay, that’s true to a fifty-four-year-old woman, too.) If you don’t have romance in your life, it’s tempting to try to grab romance for the sake of romance. I’d find myself almost manufacturing crushes on guys out of nothing — just to find some sparkles. That’s analogous to wanting to go out with *anyone* on Match.com, for the sake of going out.

But I found then — that finding Sparkles and noticing Joy is a really good antidote to that. If there are Sparkles and lots of Joy in your life, you don’t need to manufacture romance. And we had a gloriously joyful summer.

And it’s also true that living a Joyful life is a really good foundation for falling in love. My husband-to-be and I started dating not long after that summer was over — and for me it was from a place of Joy.

And what do you know? I’m in a similar place right now. With no sparkles of romance in my life, I’m sometimes tempted to try to manufacture them.

What’s more, being on the Newbery Committee brought with it a boatload of Sparkles, but after June, I’m going to need to work a little harder to make sure I notice them.

So – I’m hereby making a resolution! I hereby declare freshly embracing Silliness, Joy, and Childlikeness.

So watch out! I am going to be looking for ways to be silly…

And I’m going to start by typing out the Official History of the S.I.K. Club as written July 7, 1985. After discovering it in my files tonight, I had so much fun reading it, I’m going to repeat it here.

Will my friends forgive me for letting out the secret? Well, people still have to be interested enough to read this far.

It was contained in a letter to the other S.I.K.s as we were adding new members.

… With this in mind, I would like to present The History of the S.I.K. Club, leading up to the present. I think we will all do well to rethink the noble purposes behind our joyous organization. And so…

(Ahem.)

Once upon a time, on Valentine’s Day a year ago (to be precise), in the far-off land of Biola University, two solitary maidens, who weren’t really solitary because they were together, were bemoaning the hard-heartedness and general lack of Handsome Princes in those parts, whose presence, when found, is known to cast a magic glow upon all of life.

“But why,” declared the Sillier maiden, “should this magic glow be confined only to those with handsome princes? ‘Tis no wonder the rest of us are bored and weary with homework and exams alone to occupy us.”

And so the Sparkle Theory was born. It runs as follows: Every human being desperately needs Sparkles. Therefore we must find and gather the Sparkles strewn all around us, free for the taking. We Females are prone to focus on Male Sparkles, because they are so bright, and thus the most obvious. But we must never confine ourselves to these sparkles alone, or we will be poor indeed, for there are squillions more to find. And woe to the hoarder of a Male Sparker when his sparkle flickers out!

So, defying that dread unwritten decree that college students should keep their noses to the limestone, I mean, grindstone, the two maidens went on their merry way to La Mirada Regional Park in search of sparkles. And sparkles they found in abundance! The Jollier Maiden kept provoking peals of laughter and together they had a truly joyous time.

And that, my friends, was the start of the S,I.K Club. For, to find the sparkles, we (For it was in truth myself and Jolly Jill Renee.) behaved so childishly we thought that any grown-up watching us would say, “What Silly, Immature Kids!” and look down their noses at us. We decided to wear the title with pride. From henceforth, we were Silly Sondy Sue and Jolly Jill Renee, S.I.K.s. And the theme we chose was high and lofty: Joy.

As the year went on, Jill and I continued to behave Jollily and Sillily. When summer came, we began to eat lunch together, and were soon joined by our respective sisters. After a little getting to know one another, how Silliness and Sparkles abounded! After a very Merry Unbirthday Party for all, [in between Happy Birthday Parties (complete with balloons), for Jill and me], we declared Gina and Becky, Batty and Jovial, disrespectively. And the S.I.K. Club, 4 members strong, became official.

How can we four begin to express to our new members the Silliness and Delight of that summer? There was a Six-Months-After-Christmas Party at our Official Bench. (Upon this bench in front of the SUB we ate our lunches. When a matter came up that required a vote, we indicated our vote by standing on the bench and saying “Super-cali-fragi-listic-expial-i-docious!”) There were Dr. Seuss songs. There were lavish plans of silliness. There was an S.I.K. expedition to see Jungle Book (with 11-year-old Linda Mammano, who thought us very childish indeed).

But best of all were the August Holidays. It occurred to my Batty sister that poor August has gone literally hundreds of years without a single holiday! So we decided to make up for all that neglect. We invented and celebrated a new holiday for every single day of August!

For example, on Hog’s Day, Becky and I went to Farrell’s and had Ham-It-Up Burgers (Hamburgers with Bacon and Ham), followed by a Pig’s Trough. On Footloose-and-Fancy-Free Day (on which we also celebrated Fairy Tale Day), the S.I.K.s went to Disneyland and had a joyous time and sang with Snow White at her Wishing Well. To end the month, on Narnian Independence Day, we went to the Hollywood Bowl and saw the fireworks spectacular in honor of the defeat of the White Witch.

Our happy summer over, we were amazed and overjoyed to discover that we weren’t, after all, the only Sillies on campus. Although the majority still looked down their noses, we found that Silliness and Joy are contagious. By the end of the year we were joined by Sparkling Stephanie, noted paper airline pilot and manufacturer; Singing Cindy, known for appearing on roofs at the oddest times; and Jocular Joy, a famous philosopher of the cause of Silliness.

But where do we go from here? The S.I.K. Club has been in existence for well over a year now. We had a wonderful time when Jocular joined Sparkling, Jolly, and me to celebrate our birthdays. The Six-Months-After-Christmas Party could not have been better!

But alas! We’re going our separate ways. . . . It’s harder to get us together. . . . I want to apologize to all the other S.I.K.s for last year – when homework, busy-ness and exhaustion sapped all my joy – and also for perhaps a tiny bit too much absorption in my own Handsome Prince to the exclusion of other sparkles.

Now. . . I want to take up the search again! Let’s look for Sparkles! Let’s find Joys along the way! And let’s never stop giving people a reason to accuse us of being Silly, Immature Kids!

[Excursus: Have you ever noticed how the most wonderful people are the childlike adults and the mature children? But what could be worse than a childish child or a very grown-up adult? Batty & I think, therefore, that it is imperative that as we grow older we also grow younger. That way, once we are both very old and very young, we can be delightful with true maturity. (Not the kind of maturity that S.I.K.s shun, but real maturity, which includes childlikeness.)]

[Excursus #2 (Sondy’s Theorem on the Retention of Ages): We do not lose any age as we gain another.

Proof (by Contradiction):

Assume the contrary, that is, that I lose one of my past ages when I have a birthday, in particular, that I lose 19 when I turn 20.

But 20 – 19 = 1. So if I lost 19, I would only be 1. This contradicts the fact that I am 20.

Therefore, by the Law of the Excluded Middle, the assumption is false and we do not lose any age as we gain another. Q.E.D.

Example #1: “I am 3 years old,” is a true statement. I am 3, and then some.

Example #2: David Copperfield is every bit as much David Copperfield when he appears as young David, adolescent David, and grown David. All exist between the covers of the book at the same time, and all are David Copperfield. That is how we are to God. (This example comes, I believe, from C. S. Lewis, and is perhaps only distantly related to my Theorem, but I think it helps demonstrate the truth.)]

After this, I brainstormed ideas of ways to keep our club going. We also proposed new members. I think it’s telling what factors made someone a good candidate. Here’s what I said about Carolyn:

Examples of her silliness include: shooting rubber bands over the partitions, playing with a punching ball, going to our SMAC Party, playing kamikaze waterguns, owning a silly calendar, keeping a Doo-da bird on her desk, playing with the electric door, and making silly predictions about the people who walk through the said door. These are merely a few trivial examples of her inherent silliness. I have known and watched her long and have become convinced that she is deeply and truly Silly, and would make a worthy member of our club.

Rereading these documents and recognizing that I am still twenty years old – I have set myself a high bar indeed.

Onward, to search for sparkles!

And today, reading through this file was a bright one.

Joy to you!

With Thanksgiving

Saturday, April 27th, 2019

I did a post recently about praying with thanksgiving.

Today I’m thinking about a big prayer request I’ve had for a long time: I’d like to get married again.

After taking a year and a half off from “looking” while I was on the Newbery committee, a couple months ago I paid for six months on an online dating site – and have not found any good matches. Yes, a few were interesting to me, but so far no one has shown interest back.

I know I’ll be hard to match. My faith is important enough in my life that I’m not really interested in anyone who doesn’t even mention their faith on their profile. At the same time, I have an adult transgender daughter who’s planning a gay wedding, and I’m thrilled about that. I hate it that it’s not always true that someone whose faith is important to them is completely accepting of LGBTQ people, but unfortunately, they don’t always go together. I’ve got a few other quirks that might make me hard to match, and so far I haven’t found anyone.

I feel ready to date again. In fact, it’s been almost five years since I dated someone for two months. (Found him online!) And I feel like I’ve experienced a lot of healing since that time. Some of the healing came from that relationship – only the second relationship in my life, the first being my ex-husband. Some of the healing came from breaking up with him myself instead of getting left, as I did with my ex-husband. If I were desperate, I would not have let a perfectly good boyfriend go! So in a sense breaking up with him was affirmation that I am not desperate to be in a relationship.

[I need to add that my ex-boyfriend is a wonderful person and will make a wonderful partner for someone. I just don’t think we’re a great match. I’m happy to still be friends with him five years later, and I’m even more convinced we’re better off as friends. I do think that’s another sign that I’ve come a long way in healing since my divorce.]

The biggest factor in my healing journey was writing Project 52, the story of my life, including the divorce years. I looked at old journals, confronted that my marriage hadn’t been as ideal as I remembered it, and looked at the painful times with the knowledge that things really did work out for good. My life is happy – how can I continue to hold it against my ex-husband that it’s not anything like I expected it to be – when it’s so very good?

Also in the past five years, I have come into my own as a librarian. I was on the Newbery Committee!!! (That still thrills me!) And this year I won the Allie Beth Martin Award given by the Public Library Association. That feels wild. I didn’t officially become a librarian (with a Master’s in Library Science) until I was 43, and still have the feeling that coming to the profession so late makes me somehow less of a “real” librarian. Yes, I knew I’d found my calling – but to be validated like that? Wow!

That’s all good, and that’s all true, but it’s also true that I liked being married. I liked being married to my best friend, or at least the person I thought was my best friend. I also think being married helps me be a better person, getting the perspective of someone other than me. So yes, I’d like to apply all the lessons learned in the healing process to a new relationship. As far as I’m concerned, all this healing means I’m ready now to jump in again.

I’ve been praying about it for a long time, and nothing’s happened. I made a big deal of putting up an online profile again – and nothing’s happened.

But a few things encouraged me about it today.

One was from taking a personal spiritual retreat a couple weeks ago. It was wonderful – and then I got back excited about doing more writing and wanting to write an hour every day as well as post my book reviews and post pictures and have daily quiet times. And I ended up staying up late every day the next week, which wasn’t a good way to do it.

And I realized that if I were married, I’d have even less time for personal projects like that. I was reminded of I Corinthians 7 where it says that a married woman wants to please her husband, but an unmarried woman can be devoted to the Lord in body and spirit.

If I can’t even do all the meaningful things I’d like to do when I’m single, it would be even harder with a man in my life. Maybe this is my opportunity to figure out my priorities and realize that I have no one to blame but myself when I don’t get everything done I’d like to do.

And then it occurred to me: Maybe it’s not that I’m not finding a match because I’m a hard person to match. Maybe it’s not that God is ignoring my request.

Maybe the Lord is saying, “Sondy, I love you so much I’m going to let you linger in this happy place for a while. You went through the wilderness. Now is an interlude in the garden.”

And thinking of it that way (rather than what is wrong with me that I can’t find a match? or what is taking God so long?) makes it much easier to rejoice.

All of this brings me right back to praying with thanksgiving. Because today was a day off, and the weather was utterly glorious. And I got to thinking about all the things that would have at least been different if I were married.

So I’m going to make a list of things that happened today that wouldn’t have necessarily happened that way if I were married. I am thankful for them all.

— I got to sleep late.
— I had a leisurely quiet time, reading chapters from several additional books, taking my sweet time.
— I got to choose from the piles of interesting books on my dining room table.
— I got to listen to Christian music and sang along without embarrassment.
— I memorized Scripture, reciting aloud without bothering anyone.
— I took a wonderful walk by my lake, at my own pace, stopping to take pictures whenever the fancy struck me.
— I sang in the shower without bothering anyone.
— I cleaned my bathroom. It was much less work than if I didn’t live alone and I’ve got a nice monthly cleaning rotation that works really well. This is less frequent than if I didn’t live alone, and there was no negotiating necessary.
— I did my laundry. Also less work.
— I made dinner – with enough leftovers to last me the whole week. Wouldn’t be true if I were cooking for more than one.
— I had time to write.
— I went to some friends’ house and played games. No worries about whether my romantic partner can handle being beaten in a game. No accusations that I am too competitive. (Now those things definitely don’t have to happen. But there was also no anxiety at the possibility they might happen.) Just a lot of fun. And I got to be around people I enjoy.

And did I mention? The weather was glorious today. The new grass and new leaves are all bright Spring green and were shining under the bright blue sky. A wind was blowing, and it was neither hot nor cold. I didn’t need air conditioning or heat and wore a light jacket when I went on my walk. At one point I looked out the window and saw a great blue heron soar past.

That’s another thing I probably wouldn’t have if I were married: My cozy condo by the lake, decorated exactly as I want it with things meaningful to me and also with stacks and bookcases of books. There’s not really enough room for another person’s stuff, so I will probably move if I ever marry again. But meanwhile, I love Sondy’s Snuggery.

Now, I’ll admit I do have hopes of finding someone who maybe even likes to hear me singing. But you get the idea. For this time in my life I get to be selfish. I get to take only my own needs into account. I would like to have someone else to consider; I would like to be able to give someone else love day after day. But there are perks to living alone.

So yes, Lord, my request is still that I will meet someone who is a good partner for me, who loves You and seeks to follow You, and who will share life together with me, adding love and joy to my days. I ask that we would enhance each other’s lives and help each other follow You. But meanwhile, thank You so much for today, such a wonderful and joyful gift.

Thank You for this season in my life. Thank You for all the healing You’ve done in my life, and may that healing continue so I have all the more to offer a man You bring into my life. And may I continue to delight in the many good and perfect gifts You send my way.

Envision Today

Friday, June 29th, 2018

A year and a half ago, a friend suggested an exercise to me: You envision a day in your life ten years in the future. What do you want it to look like? Describe it in great detail.

The promise is made that you will be surprised about how much that you envision will come true.

I was thinking about that exercise today. I was going for a walk by my lake. It was warm, yes, but cool breezes were blowing. I’d gotten a close up look at my friendly neighborhood great blue heron. Lovely flowers were blooming. It was simply beautiful. My heart was overflowing.

I started thinking, if ten years ago I had envisioned today, could I have imagined much better than this?

Now, if I were imagining a perfect day, I would have gotten up a whole lot earlier than I did today. But there are a whole bunch of elements of today that will be dreams come true:

— I’m going to spend hours reading out on my balcony.
— I got to go for a walk in a beautiful place.
— I *can* take a nap, take it easy, sing along with Christian music….
— I will post thoughts and they will be “published” on my blogs.
— I’m on the Newbery committee, for crying out loud!

Okay, it’s not as impressive when I write it out. But I’ve been thinking lately about Psalm 103:5 — “who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.” When my desires are satisfied with good things, I want to *notice* it. I’m a bit stressed because I need to spend every spare minute reading – but that’s a dream come true!

The truth is, when I envisioned my life ten years in the future – Future Sondy had a wonderful husband who was sharing in all the activities of that day I envisioned, and making them better.

But I’m noticing lately that dreams can come true even if that particular dream hasn’t come true yet.

Lately I’ve met some single men near my age – and I haven’t been attracted to them, and they have shown no signs of being attracted to me. And I just hate the part of me that is disappointed by that! It’s an attitude of scarcity – that single men near my age are rare, and I’d better hope if I meet one that we’re a good match, because otherwise none of my dreams will ever come true!

I’m speaking against that. I like what Michelle Obama said at ALA – that she’s found you can have it all, but usually not all at the same time.

The truth is, right now I’ve got a dream come true of being on the Newbery committee and getting legitimately to spend hours and hours of my time reading. Often out on my balcony with birds chirping around me and gentle breezes blowing.

And you know what? It really is easier to do that while I’m living alone.

At the same time, I’ve noticed how richly blessed I am with friends – and a wide variety of friends, women and men, young and old, from so many different backgrounds. Last night I got to read at Silent Book Club with a friend who’s older than me and a delightful storyteller and another new friend who likes to read horror stories and is a young college student and drives out an hour from West Virginia to meet with us.

But I like this idea: Envision Today.

Sure, I’ve frittered away a lot of this day, but that’s a luxury in itself! I’m going to get to sit out on my balcony and read. I’ve gotten to post on a blog some of my thoughts about life. I’ll get to connect with some friends on Facebook.

And look at that. A box of books just arrived at my door from a publisher!

Yes, I can imagine a day where NO dreams come true. But I don’t want to generate that kind of vision, so let me instead look at some really bad days I’ve had:

There was the day I went to court and my divorce became final. That day, my lifelong friend, who was my maid of honor at my wedding and a witness in my divorce, along with another much newer friend, took me out to eat. Showing that even on my worst day, I have loyal friends.

Or how about when I was in the hospital after my stroke? Again, friends came and helped. I went in the hospital the day before my son’s birthday – but my ex-husband rose to the occasion and drove to pick up my son a day earlier than we had planned. I was cared for even when I couldn’t care for myself. Even my work colleagues contributed some of their own sick leave for me.

Tomorrow I have to work. Working in a library has many situations that are definitely *not* dreams come true. But it also has many situations that are. Tomorrow, I’m hosting Family Math Games, and I can easily imagine that I’m going to get to see parents interacting and having fun with their children, who are learning, also having fun, and feeling loved. I can easily imagine that I will get to help a child find a book they’re going to love. And after work? Why, some more reading, of course!

I’m not trying to say that every day is a dream come true. But when dreams do come true, I really want to notice it!

And, honestly, until January 28, 2019, I’m on the Newbery committee – so the truth is that every day *does* have at least one dream come true.

But what about January 29?

I guess what I’m saying is that I’d like to make a new habit. Envisioning a day ten years in the future is a great exercise. I added some good things into my life after I did that.

But I would also like to make a habit of Envisioning Today.

I’d like to do meaningful things, and I’d like to notice that I’m doing them.

And when my dreams come true, I’d like to notice it.

Birthday Reflections

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

I had a lovely day today – I got to spend a few hours out on my balcony reading with blue skies and gentle breezes blowing.

And I drove a short distance and went for a walk in the woods by the Potomac River.

On the way to Red Rock Wilderness Park, I heard Casting Crown’s new song on the radio, and it struck me as a perfect Birthday Song. Truly God is the God of all my days.

But that also got me thinking of Psalm 37:4 — “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

I am in the middle of getting the desire of my heart, make no mistake about it.

No, I don’t have every desire of my heart.

But I am in the middle of a huge one being fulfilled – I am on the Newbery committee! I get to tell the world about great books! And – I get to spend my birthday reading great books, sitting out on a beautiful balcony. I get to go walk in the woods and have my spirit restored. I even have loving friends who come read with me (I spent the evening at my Silent Book Club) and bring me cupcakes and flowers.

Truly, God has given me the desire of my heart. My cup overflows.

May I continue to see all the reasons He gives me to find delight.

Three Little Lessons

Friday, April 6th, 2018

I was thinking today about what I’m learning in my life lately. And I came up with three things. Thinking about them made me happier today.

The first one came from lately being hyperaware of single men somewhere near my age and whether I might meet them. A friend told me about a single man she’d met – and there was absolutely nothing to indicate that he might have anything in common with me – except that he appeared to be single. (No ring on the fourth finger of his left hand.)

On top of that, I’ve been joking with friends about where I might meet single men – it’s pretty much an attitude of scarcity.

But lately I’ve been talking with other single women. We talk about how nice it is to set our own schedule and make our own choices and pursue our own interests. I’m remembering a bigger truth:

Lesson One: Even if I never get married again, I’m going to have a richly happy life.

When I think about what I don’t have, I forget how wonderful my life is right now.

I by no means want to get married just for the sake of getting married. I do believe that someone may come along who could enhance my life and make it even better than it is now. But if such a man never comes along? It is no tragedy. Life is very good.

There’s a balance. I don’t want to rule out finding a partner or shut men out of my life. But lately, I was thinking a little too much about “finding a man” as being a problem.

But I absolutely don’t want just any man. Being single and somewhere near my age is not enough! He’s going to have to be exceptional to win a place in my life!

And today was a good day to remember that. And relish a day that was exactly what I wanted it to be.

Lesson Two: Enjoy this time while I’m on the Newbery committee.

I recently made a new plan to get more reading time in: Reading every day from 7 to 9, whether morning or evening or both.

But then I noticed I wasn’t necessarily getting in a quiet time. And I was getting a little bit uptight about whether I got the reading time in.

And I just need to remember – this is a time I’ll look back on all my life. Might as well enjoy it!

With that in mind, today I sat out on my balcony in the afternoon and read a book from start to finish!

It meant that I needed to do some other things from 7 to 9 tonight. But while I was out there, winds were blowing, and birds were singing. It was warm enough I didn’t need a jacket. The wind meant I could hear gentle ripples coming from the lake. I have a comfortable chair and can put my feet up.

In short, it was a lovely, idyllic afternoon. I’m so glad I seized the opportunity while I had it.

Lesson Three: Remember how far the Lord has brought me.

This came from reading Mark 5:34 this morning. Jesus says to a woman whom He healed, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

I’ve been reading Project 52 this year, which I wrote last year. And it reminded me that 12 years ago, I was suffering. Suffering greatly.

Today, I am free from my suffering.

And I am so thankful.

Okay, those lessons aren’t as big as the ones I learned when I was suffering. But they were good to think about today. Call them Lessons in a Time of Joy.

Resurrection and Brahms’ Requiem

Saturday, March 31st, 2018

When I was a young adult, I was part of a choir, the William Locke Singers, that sang Johannes Brahms’ A German Requiem. We were told that this is a Protestant Requiem, and is all about hope.

We sang it in English, and indeed the text is entirely taken from the Bible – verses full of hope and about the beauty of heaven and about comfort.

Some time before we performed the Requiem, a college friend died in a freak accident. This requiem – and singing those words over and over again – comforted me.

I often play the Requiem over and sing along at Easter when I’m thinking about Resurrection.

This year, today I’m attending a memorial service for an elder of our church who died after a long battle with cancer. He was only a little older than me, and leaves a wife and two adult kids – and a grieving church.

So – today not only am I listening to this wonderful requiem, I’m going to type out all the verses in the text.

Now, in the music form, this is extremely, extremely repetitive. So learning this piece gets you thinking about these things and repeating them in beautiful music over and over and over again. The words are beautiful – but singing them in this incredible piece of art puts them right into your heart.

I.
Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall have comfort.

They that sow, that sow in tears, shall reap, shall reap in joy.
Who goeth forth and weepeth, and beareth precious seed,
shall doubtless return with rejoicing, and bring his sheaves with him.

Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall have comfort.

II.
Behold, all flesh is as the grass, and all the goodliness of man is as the flower of grass;
For lo, the grass with’reth, and the flower thereof decayeth.

Now therefore, be patient, O my brethren, unto the coming of Christ.
See how the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit, the precious fruit of the earth,
and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early rain and the latter rain.
So be ye patient.

Behold, all flesh is as the grass, and all the goodliness of man is as the flower of grass.
For lo, the grass with’reth, and the flower thereof decayeth.

But yet the Lord’s word endureth, endureth for evermore.

The redeemed of the Lord shall return again, and come rejoicing unto Zion;
Joy everlasting upon their heads shall be.
Joy and gladness, these shall be their portion,
and tears and sighing shall flee from them.

The redeemed of the Lord shall return again, and come rejoicing unto Zion;
Joy everlasting, joy upon their heads shall be.
Joy everlasting.

III.
Lord, make me to know the measure of my days on earth, to consider my frailty,
that I must perish.
Surely, all my days here are as an handbreadth to Thee,
and my lifetime is as naught to Thee.

Verily, mankind walketh in a vain show, and their best state is altogether vanity.
Man passeth away like a shadow, he is disquieted in vain,
he heapeth up riches, and cannot tell who shall gather them.

Now, Lord, O, what do I wait for?

My hope is in Thee, my hope is in Thee.

But the righteous souls are in the hand of God, nor pain nor grief shall nigh them come.

IV.
How lovely is Thy dwellingplace, O Lord of Hosts, O Lord of Hosts!
For my soul, it longeth, yea, fainteth for the courts of the Lord;
my soul and body crieth out, yea, for the living God.

How lovely is Thy dwellingplace, O Lord of Hosts, O Lord of Hosts!
Blest are they, O blest are they that dwell within Thy house;
they praise Thy name evermore, they praise Thee for evermore!

How lovely is Thy dwellingplace.

V.
Ye now are sorrowful,
howbeit, ye shall again behold me, and your heart shall be joyful.

Yea, I will comfort you, as one whom his own mother comforteth.

Look upon me; ye know that for a little time labour and sorrow were mine,
but at the last I have found comfort.

Yea, I will comfort, will comfort you.

Ye now are sorrowful;
howbeit, ye shall again behold me, and your heart shall be joyful.

Yea, I will comfort you, as one whom his own mother comforteth.

VI.
Here on earth have we no continuing place,
howbeit, we seek one to come.

Lo, I unfold unto you a mystery.
We shall not all sleep when He cometh,
but we shall all be changed,
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the trumpet.

For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible,
and we shall be changed.

Then, then, what of old was written, the same shall be brought to pass.

For death shall be swallowed in victory, yea, in victory!

Grave, where is thy triumph?
Death, O where is thy sting?

Worthy art Thou to be praised, Lord of honour and might,
for Thou hast earth and heaven created,
and for Thy good pleasure all things have their being, and were created.

VII.
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth.

Saith the spirit, that they rest from their labours,
and that their works follow after them.

Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth.

Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.

Amen.

I looked for a youtube video of Brahms’ Requiem sung in English, and found this playlist, which should take you through all the movements.

Stone of Help

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

I got a new car just before the New Year!

I’m naming the car “Ebenezer,” “Benny” for short, after I Samuel 7:12, where Samuel set up a stone saying, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped.”

The car is reminding me of all the things that have worked out for good lately.

And let me try to explain some of the things that came together when I bought this car.

I’ve been in a horrible black hole of credit card debt for years. Most of it started when I got divorced, and when I moved to Virginia and lost my job. But once you’re deeply in debt, it feels foolish to save, because you should be using any “extra” money to pay down credit card debt. But then when big expenses come up, you have to borrow to pay them. On top of that, any trips I took or any other splurges – I borrowed to do it. So a lot of the debt was my own fault for doing that too much.

For a few years now, along with New Year’s Goals, I’ve come up with 7 prayer requests to pray daily in the new year. Ever since I started doing that, one of the prayer requests was to get out of debt. The associated goal was always much, much less, and more realistic – to reduce the total by a few thousand. I didn’t think this was a prayer that could happen in less than 5 years.

In November 2016, wanting to speed up paying off my debt, I took out a 4-year installment loan to cover the highest rate cards. I knew it would make my budget tight, but I thought it would be worth it to speed up paying off the cards.

In the next few months after borrowing that money, my car needed $2700 of repairs. I knew I couldn’t afford a new car – I wanted to wait at least until I paid off my library school student loans in November 2017 – but to pay that amount, I had to borrow – so the monthly payments got yet higher.

Then in November 2017, I paid off my student loan! Hooray! A little leeway in my budget!

But at the end of December, my car’s Check Engine light went off again. Sure enough, it would cost $5000 to fix it. Well, I didn’t have student loan payments any more. That meant I knew I could make payments, right? I did decide to buy a new car.

The old one, a 2002 Prius, had 126,000 miles on it when I bought it in 2008. It had over 227,000 miles when it died. This time, I wanted to get the benefit of the best 126,000 miles! It turned out now they make a Prius C (for compact) that is less expensive. And my car broke down between Christmas and New Year’s – which I’ve heard is the best time to buy a car. I got 0.9% financing for 72 months. It turned out they hadn’t gone up in price a whole lot since I’d bought my first one. Yay!

So that was wonderful – but I was still wondering how I’d pay for it!

It was clear that my home had gone up in value since I’d bought it almost five years ago. I checked, and some neighbors had recently sold the same model for $290,000 and $295,000. (I bought it for $255,000.) Since that meant I had more than 20% equity, I wondered if I should refinance to get rid of my mortgage insurance on my FHA loan.

Well, long story short, that wasn’t a good idea, because my first mortgage is at 3.25%. Also, I got my FHA mortgage a month before the rules changed – so my insurance will automatically go away when I hit 78% of the original purchase price – in 4 or 5 years.

But all this time I’d thought that a home equity loan would count against hitting that 78%. But because of buying the car, I looked into it and learned that isn’t the case. It turned out that the public value out there for my place came in at $277,000, without me getting an appraisal. And at this time, I qualified for exactly enough money to pay off all my credit cards and have a little money left over for a cushion. (The cushion quickly went away with a couple expenses that came up. So just exactly the right amount of money.)

Once I think about it, the timing is amazing:

My car didn’t break down until I’d paid off my student loan. If it had happened sooner, I might have kept borrowing to keep it running.

It happened at the best time to buy a new car.

It motivated me to find out about home equity loans.

It happened when I qualified for exactly the right amount to pay off my credit cards. (It’s 15-year fixed rate, so it won’t last forever, either.)

Now I realize I’m still in debt, but now it’s secured debt. And the best part is that now my budget has some room to save – so I can try with all my might to save for future big expenses and try to never get back into credit card debt again.

On top of that, this happened just as 2018 was beginning. 2018 is the year I’m serving on the Newbery committee. The Newbery committee is a dream come true and also represents things working out for good.

I applied four years earlier to be on the committee – and missed it by 15 votes. But this is a much better time. It makes my Empty Nest an asset instead of something to mope about.

Why, I’m having so much fun going to classes and talking about the Newbery committee – I realized that this even shows me that I’m happier in my current job than I would have been in the Youth Materials Selector job I applied for a few years ago and was sad not to get. In that job, it wouldn’t be a natural outgrowth to do outreach to schools – but as Youth Services Manager, that fits in beautifully. Yep, that’s worked out for good, too.

There’s ONE thing left that hasn’t worked out in my life.

I find it just plain funny how, when things are going most beautifully, on two different days that I noticed were particularly good – I caught myself thinking about that one thing left. (Oh, the ability of humans to think about what we don’t have instead of about what we do!)

It’s that I’m still single. And there are apparently no prospects for changing that.

But the truth is, it’s a lot easier to spend all my spare time reading when I’m not in a relationship. If God has worked out so many other things for good – including perfect timing – I really do believe He can work out that one, too.

And I don’t have time for a man right now, anyway!

And mind you, I’m very, very happy. (I won’t get started on how much, much, much I’m enjoying Newbery committee activities – and I’ve barely begun.)

But when I find myself going down the path of thinking about what I don’t have – my little car is now a physical reminder: Hitherto hath the Lord helped!

Love and Connection

Friday, October 20th, 2017

I’ve been thinking about love lately.

Our pastor preached on “Right Connection” last Sunday. Although I agreed with his points – We are made for connection; right connection with God helps us have right connection with people and vice versa; right connection is incredibly important – a couple of implications from how it came out bothered me a little bit and got me thinking.

In talking about how much right connection with God helps us to connect with people, he mentioned how much a tough marriage affects your whole life and hurts your happiness.

But – I have experience with a tough marriage and heartbreak in marriage, and I have friends in similar situations. Being in a tough marriage does not mean something’s wrong with your connection with God. And I especially disagree with any implication that heartbreak has to destroy your happiness. I mean, by definition heartbreak makes you sad. But – finding joy in other things was a crucial part of healing for me. And being surrounded by the love of friends was also crucial.

So – all that got me thinking about love. I’d also just finished reading Lorna Byrne’s book Love from Heaven. Lorna Byrne says that from birth, she has been able to see and talk with angels. She also says that the angels taught her what the force of love looks like coming out from people. Angels showed her that people are born with a soul of pure love – but with one thing and another, we learn to wrap a band around our hearts and lock up our love.

(You can feel love and peace coming from a newborn – at least one who’s sleeping!)

Now, I believe that loving others is all wrapped up in following Christ. My pastor also preached on Sunday about two passages that affirm this. Jesus said that people will know his disciples by their love for one another. Jesus also said that the two commands that sum up the Law and the Prophets are Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

So why do I know so many Christians who are in marriages that are breaking their hearts? If our faith helps us to love, why does that happen?

Well, to me, the thing about humans loving others is that we get hurt. We fail to be as loving as we should, and in return we are not loved as we should be. Or it may even be no fault of our own – even babies are not always welcomed into a loving home.

What made me want to write about this was a memory that came to me this morning. It was not long after my husband had told me he wanted a divorce. Now I could tell people that I was having marriage difficulties. I told my family, and I told my Sunday school class. And I remember there was a Sunday when three different people told me, “You need to let Steve go.” The first two, I thought were just saying that because they were divorced themselves. But when my wise mentor who’d had marriage difficulties but was still married said so – well, I finally figured out God was trying to tell me something. (I managed to loosen my grip a tiny bit. Actually letting go took years. But the process was beginning.)

Anyway, what I remember about that day was that a woman in my Sunday school class who had been divorced and was standing there with her new husband was one of the people who told me I needed to let Steve go. But she also told me, “You will become hard.” She said that she had become a much harder person during her divorce, and I could in fact see it in her eyes.

I decided in my heart right then that I didn’t want that to happen to me.

And I’m not talking about dating or getting married again. I’m talking about opening my heart to love.

Lorna Byrne says that it’s all the same thing. Locking up your love affects your ability to love anyone. If you let out love in one way, it’s going to help you release love in other ways.

And that rings true.

It’s not even only love of other people, but also love of yourself and love of life.

And that ties in with what Steven Stosny talks about in his books. Among other things, he says that when you value other things or people – even something like beauty in nature – you will feel more lovable. You’ll “access” your core value.

When I was struggling through my marriage falling apart, it helped so much to find other things that brought me Joy. They helped me remember who I really was, what I was about. Sure enough, it helped me feel more lovable and valuable. (That takes a big hit when someone who’s promised to love you until death parts you decides you don’t deserve his love.)

I’m also reminded of the book Deeper Dating. That author, Ken Page, talks about finding your Core Gifts. He talks about expressing your Core Gifts and finding people who are attracted to them, attracted to you.

In a roundabout way, he’s saying the same thing as Lorna Byrne: Loving yourself makes you more lovable and more able to love. Release that love! Don’t wrap a protective band around your heart.

When I think of these in light of what Lorna Byrne is saying, it all fits. They’re talking about loving yourself – and like Lorna Byrne says, that gets you releasing love and more able to love others.

I think following Christ can also help you release love. Connecting with a community of Christ followers can also help you release love. That’s how faith can help in this.

Releasing love is dangerous though. There’s a really good chance you’ll get hurt. Being a Christ follower definitely won’t keep that from happening. You’ll be tempted to become a harder person.

But I do think that faith and loving people can help you open your heart again and love. Believing you have God’s tremendous love for you goes a long way. And actually seeing that love expressed through people – That is gold.

So – that’s what I’ve been thinking about. It’s come out a bit incoherent. But I’m trying to say that Joy in life and Love and Forgiveness are all wrapped up together. Let’s try to loosen that band around our hearts – whatever it is that’s happened to us. And let’s release that love and compassion. Let’s connect with others and refuse to become hard, even though it feels like it’s a lot safer.

And if you harden your heart in one area, I really do believe it’s going to affect your ability to love in every area.

Praise God! He loves us unconditionally, and we can go to Him when loving brings wounds. And try to learn to open up and let out that love again.

Recently, my cousin, who’s divorced, asked if someone who has once given her heart, given her all, can ever get that again.

Now, my cousin clearly loves life. I don’t think she’s wrapping a tight band around her heart. I think she’ll find that love.

And, no, romance again isn’t guaranteed. But I want to learn to radiate Love. I do believe it goes hand-in-hand with Joy and adds so much richness to life. And the thing about following Jesus is that he showers that love on us. He will help us spread that love to others.

Stones of Help, Stones of Fire

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Today is my 52nd Birthday.

Because 52 is such a cool number, and because there are 52 weeks in a year, I’m embarking on Project 52 — reflecting each week on one year of my life.

I’ve also been thinking very much about Healing today.

Ten years ago this summer was when I left Germany, utterly brokenhearted, and moved to Virginia.

Now I am settling in — and I feel Healed. And that’s a wonderful thing.

And I was thinking about I Samuel 7:12, where Samuel sets up a stone as a monument to God’s help. He names it “Ebenezer,” which means “Stone of Help,” and says, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped.”

Today I planned to go to Great Falls, which I did, and pick up a stone to remind me of God’s help. I have some other stones. This one (actually I picked up two) is going to represent Healing.

Here are the stones I chose along with some souvenir playing cards from places I loved. (I played some solitaire tonight using 52 cards at a time. It’s appropriate!)

BirthdayStones

But, rather more amazing — this morning I checked my doorstep (I’d forgotten to check last night), and there was a birthday package! It contained a gift from my generous friend Lauri Ann of beautiful opal earrings.

Opals are special to me because one of my favorite books as a kid was a book written by missionary Isobel Kuhn called Stones of Fire. In it, she compares a Lisu tribeswoman to a fire opal. She talks about how the colors of the opal come from pressure and brokenness.

I love that thought. As I’m thinking about Healing — I declare that my healed broken heart is part of what makes me beautiful.

So my Stones of Fire are also my Stones of Help. They speak to how far God has brought me — and that He has not only Healed me, He used those awful times to make me beautiful.

Three years ago when I went to Great Falls on my birthday, the many great blue herons I saw represented Great Blue Herons of Happiness.

This year, they were back!

GreatBlueFalls1

So the walk in great falls was about Healing and Happiness both.

GreatBlueFalls2

We got amazing views of many, many herons.

GreatBlueFalls3

And here I am modeling my Stones of Fire that represent Healing, with a Great Blue Heron of Happiness behind me.

Opal

Hitherto hath the Lord helped!

Blizzards and Contentment and Trust

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

BlizzardwithCardinal

We had a blizzard last week. I live in the DC area — you might have heard.

I find with a blizzard, people tend to either love it or hate it. I LOVED it!

We had plenty of warning — so my workplace at the library was closed on Friday just in time for me to get home just as the flakes were beginning to fall. Then they continued to fall — extremely thickly — for the next more than 30 hours.

The area isn’t prepared for such a rare event. With 30 hours of heavily falling snow and more than 2 feet of snow on the ground, this did break records. So besides the weekend, when I hadn’t been scheduled to work (but all activities were cancelled), I got Monday and Tuesday off work.

Snow days are gifts of time. Plans get cancelled, and you get to take time out of your routine. This time, for the first time in four years on a snow day, I had my son (newly graduated from college) home with me, so I wasn’t all alone.

After the blizzard ended, on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, I went for a walk through the snow. It was incredible! I love to walk around my lake on a sunny day, but this was a whole new adventure and each day was different.

BreakingTrail3

Mind you, each excursion was so much work, I’d then wipe out my afternoon by taking a nap to recover. There was a part of me that thought I should “use” the time. But it was so worth it.

And I’ve felt good! All my life, I’ve been plagued by headaches — until recently and “the change” — and I haven’t had a headache all month! Not even going out in the cold and snow! Not even with major weather fronts coming through! This all still feels miraculous and wonderful.

And I got time to work on my website and add cool math stuff, and I have a manuscript being considered by an editor, and I’m doing things at work (when we’re open) that make me happy, and life is just very good. And did I mention I got to walk in the snow this week?!!! (And it was so cool!!!)

Blizzard6

All this boils down to — I have been Happy lately. Very Happy and Content.

So I’ve been thinking about Contentment in the context of trust. And, yes, in the context of singleness.

One of those prayer requests I mentioned in my post last month? I’d like to find a new life partner.

But this past week, I’ve been happy and content in the here and now — and I think that helps me to trust.

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul tells us present our requests to God with thanksgiving — and the result will be peace.

I’ve found this week that it helps me trust that God will bring me good in the future if I focus on how much good God has given me in the present.

I do realize there’s a balance. You want to be content — but you don’t want to be complacent. You want to be thankful for the present, but you don’t want to fail to grow as a person.

For example, I had a wonderful time in the snow. I have a garage and only one car, and I live in a condo which hires a company to clear snow — so I didn’t have to do any shoveling. I was happy about that, maybe too happy — I didn’t help my neighbors much. (In my defense, I’m not really supposed to carry heavy loads since my vertebral artery dissection and stroke four years ago. But that wasn’t really my motivation.)

In the example of looking for a new life partner, it’s good to be content — but how much should I be putting myself out there, looking online or going to meetups? If I happily become a hermit, is my trust in God expecting Him to do a miracle and bring someone into my shell? I do think there’s a balance.

I’ve had a small personal breakthrough in the past few years. I feel like I’ve come a long way in forgiving my ex-husband, and I have friends again who are men — from a variety of settings. I admit, I had generalized some of my anger and was leaning toward the “Men are skunks” view. (It was interesting recently. Something came up that had me shaking my head about “men” — and I was able to trace it back to a specific incident where I was still angry with my ex-husband. Once I took that out and looked at it and did some forgiveness work — it also took out the generalized anger.) And it’s so nice to get past that, and men add something to my life. (Mind you, my girlfriends have ALWAYS been there for me and are the ones who helped me even survive my divorce. But there was a gap in my life.)

There’s a balance in that, too. All these men I’m friends with are either married or for some other reason not an appropriate life partner for me. And it’s easy, in a low moment, to get discouraged by that fact. To jump to the conclusion that it will be impossible to find a nice single Christian man appropriate for me and even God can’t pull it off and start feeling sorry for myself.

But choosing contentment — I can see how those friendships enrich my life and even add male companionship (in a friendly way), which I was missing and does me good. And instead of stressing about the fact that these men aren’t ever going to marry me, I can find a whole lot of joy in what they do bring to my life.

Just yesterday, my sister posted an amazing poem that reaffirmed this idea for me.

We may always love, but we may not always serve.

This also applies to my ex-husband. I had to come to the place where I can love him — yet release him and go on with my life, not wanting to be married to him again. To remember the good, but accept that this is past. If I’ve truly forgiven him, I can still love him and wish him well. But I have had to accept that there is no longer any way I can serve him. (In the past, when I would try to do something nice for him, he definitely didn’t take it in the spirit it was offered.)

I had to see that wanting to serve someone has a selfish side. Can I be happy that so many of my men friends have beautiful relationships with their wives — exactly the sort of relationship I’d like to have with someone?

Well, the answer is that — when I’m content, I can.

And when I’m content, it’s easier to trust that God is going to take care of the future.

And when I’m content, it’s even easier to brush up that online profile and do a little looking. But also not be too horribly disappointed when that man with the interesting profile never answers my message.

It’s all a dance.

I was talking with my son today about being a rule-follower (which I am). He says he likes it when there are clear processes. (Looking for a job after college is not a clear process!)

I think the path of trust is also like that. Not a clear process. A place that needs balance. You want to be content but not complacent.

And then, every now and then, you get a wonderful gift of a Blizzard!

Blizzard4

BreakingTrail5