Friday, March 31, 2006

Running on Empty

She was tucked under the covers of her bed, reading her evening devotions. The strikingly confident woman who led worship this morning now looked a bit more vulnerable in her night-gown, her morning vibrancy mellowed down to a sleepy yet feminine lump wrapped in bedclothes. I liked her even more for that. Her pastor husband absolutely insisted that I traipsed up their tile stairs and visited with her before our noisy group departed. It was after 11 p.m.
Like two old girlfriends, our chap developed easily into sharing the struggles of being a pastor´s wife, a worship leader, a mother, a fixer-upper of the world´s broken toys, and assistant manager and janitoress of the home-front. Even the most enthusiastic of souls become weary under their many hats, and long for a greenhouse to retreat into.
It is my hope and pleasure to perhaps offer cool water to the weary. A veritable bowl of fresh fruit to the battle-worn and the touch of understanding that penetrates to the core can go a long way on this road we call ¨being in the ministry¨. Other Samaritans have met my needs over the years, and I remember their deeds fondly. Recieving a gift basket, a bouquet of fresh flowers, a thoughtful note, or just a phone call from a reassuring voice are all soul-fresheners along the dusty road.

We stopped at a service station in the mountains of Andalusia, and I flipped through my handy Spanish phrase book for the term, ¨fill 'er up.¨

¨Llene el depósito.¨

In any language, it can be a prayer we could make good use of.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The View from Here

Thursday March 23

We are now in the Castilla La Mancha district of Spain, and perched on the crest of the mountain near our hotel are two ancient windmills. Their wooden paddles have stood still for many years, despite the ferocious winds that continually buffet them. No longer in use, these quaint vestiges of Dutch influence now exist only to please the passing tourists that tote cameras. They not only have stood the winds of time, but also the attacks of the valiant Don Quixote 400 years ago, a fact that the local shops attest to with their t-shirts and coffee mugs.

I haven´t fallen into any tourist-traps; neither do I plan to. But I am happy they are still standing, useless and impractical as they may be. Just as three types of fish are required for an authentic paella, certain ingredients authenticate the Spanish countryside for people like me. I´ll relish the scenery and certainly bring the memory home with me in my heart. Windmills, olive groves, blossoming almond trees, tumble-down castles, and the pleasant lilt of the Spanish tongue, mixed with the purposes of God over our travels produce a precious dish; a fragrant first course.

Although grateful for God´s attention to details that touch my imagination, I hereby resolve never to be an obsolete windmill. Fueled by God´s grace, I will pursue a life of usefulness and purpose.

And if God deems to set me on a gentle mountain which overlooks verdant farmland and medieval castles, I´ll serve Him faithfully while enjoying the view.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Finally! I am who I say I am.
The Spanish computer accepted my password.....

We are leaving Madrid this morning to travel to parts unknown: Pastor Rick was unable to ascertain exactly where the conference is in Toledo....but we will find it, somehow.
Yesterday was a day I will dream about for many years to come. We took the Metro into historic downtown Madrid, D. and myself leaving our guys to visit the Museo de Plato. The museum has the most extensive collection of Spanish art in the world. Although there are many other things there, we had only a few hours, and so concentrated on that. Velesquez, El Greco and others. Ahhhh.
The Italian collection was also extensive, and I saw many beautiful things that I will probably never see again. I was grateful.
We met up with Rick & Bill, who brought our rental car from the airport. Then we travelled across town to Plaza Del Sol and the Royal Palace. The Palace was incredible. Literally: unbelievable. We paid our admission and proceeded through a vast open plaza toward the main entrance. Opulence awaited us inside the foors, where frescoed ceilings, gilded furniture and flemish tapestry inhabited every royal corner. We were stunned, it was beyond imagination. Every room made me wish Darlene was with us to ooohh and aahh.
We dined out at a modern cafe, and eventually ended up in Plaza del Sol once again, where we reached the prayer room that belongs to Jacob´s ministry. We visited for awhile before departing for home.
The city of Madrid is bustling with friendly stylish people, and filled with history and architechture galore. One day was not nearly enough, but will suffice for these weary travellers!
Our hosts, Frank and Susan Farrell, are treating us to midnight suppers and hot showers, not to mention enthusiastic conversation. We are grateful for their service and friendship.
Pray for Pastor Rick as he prepares for the conference. I have enjoyed the companionship of Rick and Danica completely.
I miss home, especially my little darlings. Hope they are behaving for their grandmas. Anyone is welcome to check on them for me, including Laura who will bring her cards, I´m sure.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Why I Love to go to Church, Reason #68

Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecies spoken to you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right, and God will save you and those who hear you.
( 1 Timothy 4:14-16, NLT)

I can't decide which I enjoy the most: a wedding ceremony, a baptism, or a presbytery meeting.
All three have the ability to transport me to absolute delights.

That's all....just thoughts today of what awaits me in a few weeks. No, I'm not planning to receive prayer, but I certainly will receive. And rejoice with those who rejoice!

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Slice of my Life:

-three rambuncious girls screaming up and down the stairs, just being silly. It's ok with me, and fun for them. When Hubby gets home, it will be out of their systems...

-#1 Son playing a Haydn Concerto over the din.

-the traditional corned beef & cabbage on the stove. This may not occur again anytime soon, as I was stunned by the added ingredients on the beef label. Who heads the conspiracy to slowly poison the Irish in this manner, anyway?

-I helped Carina rehearse 3 chorus classes today. It was interesting and challenging in its own way, although it made me fondly recall weekly rehearsals with Albany Pro Musica, the amazing group I accompanied for many seasons. Sigh.

-I held a barn owl in my hands today. Barreling home from Madrid tonight, I heard a distinctive whump on the passenger side door. Being curious, I turned around to see what it could've been.
In the glare of my high-beams on the side of the road, thoroughly befuddled, sat a wise and feathery statue. He was weighing his options: fly some more or lay down to rest for a spell. I scooped him up gingerly and spoke to him for a bit before he took off securely into the star-spangled night.
This habit of talking to animals, somewhat Dr. Doolittle-ish, comes quite naturally to me. And yes, for your information, he talked back. He said, who?

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Today is a good day to visit the local library.

This month, the Hull Homeschool Academy is focusing on US history between 1930-1950. We are reading a few historical novels; one deals with the Japanese internment camp of Manzanar. Another with a family's struggle during the Great Depression. We all enjoy good writing, and novels seem to be an effective way to make history real. At the library today, we will find other things to add to our knowledge: a book on photography from that era, a movie on the history of jazz, and a few unexpected treasures that book-lovers revel in.

To further plant and nurture a love for history, the students of this academy will be interviewing their grandmothers in the weeks to come. (There's some living history for you!) #1 Daughter may compose a poem or short story to demonstrate what she has learned. #1 Son may balk, but he will probably have to try the same. Learning doesn't always "just happen", I find. Allow me to demonstrate:

Although I tried to carve out the time, I haven't reviewed basic Spanish and French recently. It seems that my tourist's pocket-guide will be my companion on the flight over the Atlantic. (I hesitate to use the word "crash-course" here, as we will be thousands of feet above the earth.)
Helpful friends will fill in the gaps for us, but I'd like to order coffee and toast in the local lingo.
Hey, perhaps I'll find some material at the library to get me going.

There's alotta learning going on at this house.

N.B. I shall repeat a story handed down to me yesterday:
A new home-schooler joined the ranks this year. Kindergartener Baxter Brown was reluctantly tracing the letter "T", and bemoaned to himself," I just know it'll get harder than this!"
Welcome to the School of Hard-Knocks, Baxter.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Visas, Passports, and other Scary Official Documents

It's time to think about our trip.

As hard as it is to analyze oneself, I think I can state that I am a fairly organized person. Oh yes, I forget appointments and birthdays every now and then. And you wouldn't nominate my bedroom closet for any home magazine centerfold. But generally, I keep things in order around me. Visitors to our home admire our slate chalkboard, covered with neatly printed school assignments for each day. Meals are served promptly, with the food pyramid in mind. Okay, maybe the furniture needs dusting, but I am pretty obsessive about vacuuming. (so much that no one knows where to store our 2 vacuums. They are always just left out, biding their time before their next gig.)

So, self-kudos behind me, I freely admit that I abhor planning vacations. Spontaneity seems to be my credo in all things of leisure. Itineraries leave me cold. Train schedules, airline ticket business, and reservation details cause me to shudder. I leave the whole shebang to my hubby, and he does a great job. We agree on a lot when we are on the road: travel lightly, eat frugally, sleep cheaply, walk everywhere we can, take in everything we can, and breathe deeply. He bends to my penchant for museums and classical music. I bend to..... well, pretty much he lets me do what I want. It works out well, really.

Being the "organized" person that I am, though, the house will be orderly before we depart. Two lovely grandmas are taking turns commandeering the home-front, and along with #1 Daughter and #1 Son, they will keep the cogs moving smoothly. ( See, Friend # 7: that's how one uses the word cog.) Hopefully, the larder will be well-appointed, the blackboard detailed, the laundry caught up, and contact info in place by the phone by Monday morning.

Just set me down in Paris, sir, and I will take it from there....

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Has Spring Sprung?

There is a ceramic vase of pussy willow boughs on our hutch.
The wind buffets my windows throughout the night.
I took my first long walk yesterday: up the hill, bear right at the farm, and then down the ridge where sap buckets bedeck a maple grove.
The horses find something to munch on, though they seem to stand in a sea of mud.
50 degrees seems agreeable.

Hold on, everyone. A few weeks longer, and we'll really have something to talk about....

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Post of Postcards

So sure am I that my readers will understand my lack of posts, that I won't try to apologize....

Since I was on a fast track since last Wednesday, allow me to sift through my thoughts and share some mental postcards with y'all. It's my way of playing "catch up."

-Friend #7 has adorable little brothers, two of which dined with us recently, accompanied by their dad who is the the author of interesting poems. Starving Student Chicken was dished out liberally; see me for the recipe. It's the best stuff on earth, even if one is not starving. A cut-throat 2 1/2 hour game of Scrabble ensued after dessert. Friend #37 won again, much to our consternation. A mere lousy point separated the winner from Friend #7, and an additional mere lousy point from yours truly. A re-match is scheduled as soon as various educational pursuits and long trips to China are behind all of us. Stay tuned.

-A 4-hour trip to the airport to fetch dear people is a long drive. The very same 4-hour trip, a week later, to deliver dear people back to the airport is much too swift. (the gas bill is about the same....)

-Morton Gould wrote some very exciting music. But after 6 hours of rehearsing it, I was ready to never hear it again. Bach does not have the same effect on me, and that's why I know I'll be playing the Goldberg Variations in heaven.

-Important conductors are just regular people, despite the ever-present cell phone calls from famous composers and performers during rehearsal. They also get calls from their spouse to bring home milk.

-Composers are just regular people, too. While I was communing with my morning coffee in the guest-house on the mountain, Friend #30a strode past the scenery outside dressed in his bathrobe and winter parka. For a second, I thought he was a medieval monk returning from vespers. He had arisen before dawn to compose yet another masterpiece in his office.

-Bowling alleys are noisy places to converse with old friends. But you can be as boisterous as you like, the footwear is hilarious, and there is great food (like french fries) to pass around. I suppose you could actually bowl, too, but I didn't and still had a good time.

-No matter how interesting or fulfilling my out-of-town jaunts may be, nothing beats coming in the mud-room door and greeting my family. Roses on the table for no reason are nice, too.

-My favorite moment today was when I discovered good quality tapers (candles) at Hacketts. They were on sale for 99 cents. I bought a dozen. Just more reasons to have another dinner-party.

-Tomorrow is my sister-in-law's birthday. March 14 was the day she picked when she had to apply for a passport to enter the USA. (It is also my brother's birthday.) She was born in a mud hut in Niger, but now she lives in Watertown. I am very proud of her accomplishments and her everyday courage and good humor. She will be 36, she thinks. No one counts birthdays in Africa.
I really love her. Happy Birthday, Zalika.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

...because I love food every bit as much as I love words:

Le Menu~

whole wheat bread
tossed salad
marinated eggplant and peppers
curried lentils
baked pork

wish you were all here to join us.


is an amazing word.
According to Webster's, here are some of its useages:

passion, n. (LL. passio, passionis, from L. pati, passus, to suffer.)
5. subjection to imposed or inflicted pain; suffering; distress.
6. the suffering of Christ, especially in Gethsemane and on Calvary.
7.Overpowering devotion; intense affection or inclination.

We all know the application of passion in the realm of pastimes: people are passionate about gardening, opera, antiques, and baseball.
Also familiar to our ears is the passion between the sexes. Peruse any romance novel or chick-flick for that.
Among our youth (and young-at-heart) is the commendable pursuit of passion in the things of God.

But what about the concept of suffering on the behalf of what one loves? I'm not talking about the young damsel withering away over unrequited love. I'm referring to the rather inhuman, unnatural pursuit of experiencing inner pain for future gain. We will not waste time if we ponder such things, considering our bent to shy away from suffering altogether.

Perhaps Pandora would advise us not to open this box, but the Lenten season can give us leverage to explore biblical passion.

I'm in. Are you?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Busy signals

It is a daunting task to keep "busy-ness" at bay.

Last semester, (I still tend to think in semesters, being linked to homeschool and college-schedules) I began the process of entering a new season . It involved pruning, honing, distilling, and re-evaluating. The goal was to trim unnecessary trips to Crane and Albany, clean up my priority list and be available to obey God on short notice. The stack of unlearned music on my piano needed to be dissipated, along with those vague feelings of things undone that hit me at bedtime.

For example, in order to cook and deliver a meal, invite a unexpected visitor in for coffee, or make a cold-turkey phone call to an old friend, or just sit quietly for an hour....well, you need a flexible schedule. Teaching my children while thinking I had "more pressing things to do" was exhausting. When I felt frustration rising by 9 am on a regular basis, I knew it was time to re-think my schedule. What was really important here?

Seasons are a gift. I don't want to miss a single one. So with ear to the spiritual ground, pruning shears in hand and eyes on the prize, I stand still and listen. Yes, the house still buzzes with the comings and goings like unto Grand Central Station. There are grocery lists to scribble, and people's hearts to tend to. But now there are wide open spaces, too. Spaces in which to stretch and consider; linger and lounge. True, there are still things undone at the end of the day. But one of the things that is not undone is me.

And ain't that a blessing?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Monday, Monday

Monday has a bad rap. I have learned to love Mondays. You gotta admit, some things are not worth learning to love. Lima beans, for example. But give Monday a break.

We are hosting a happy gathering tonight for dinner: #22's family, Friend #7 and her sidekick from Tennessee (Friend #10), and Friend #60 from Wheaton College. It will be a noisy and rambuncious crowd.
Here is a list of my kitchen chores:
-make fruit salad
-peel and chop ginormous butternut squash
- make wild rice and white rice ( choices are important here)
-marinate chicken and pork for grilling
-knead dough for dinner rolls
-thread veggies onto skewers for grilling
-set table with new linen tablecloth I nabbed at Target for $3.74

#1 Daughter will clean the kitchen and make the table setting divine with her artistic touches, to the tunes of #1 Son practicing his violin.
This is all in preparation for a memorable evening of food and fellowship with people I cherish.

What's not to love about Mondays?
Everything is food, with me.....

The only place to have a plate of eggs and a cuppa joe in Madrid, NY is the the Hometown Cafe. Just inside the door is a long formica service counter lined with metal-based stools.(the kind that twirl!) Mismatched decor is placed haphazardly about the dining area, some of it being a cookie-jar collection on shelves, posters for jamborees, and baskets of plastic plants. To top it off, shiny St. Patrick's Day banners and garlands bedeck the thumb-tack scarred walls.

I like it. It's unpretentious. Besides-the food is served piping hot, and when the morning is blustery and below zero, that fact overrides any lack of ambience.

A group of eight locals are celebrating a birthday, boisterously greeting just about everyone that comes in by name. After their breakfast, out comes a chocolate cake smothered in some kind of glossy white stuff. Plates of it are foisted upon all, myself and waitresses included. The humor is quite ribald, but a feeling of general comraderie and good will pervades the air, along with the aroma of fresh coffee, bacon and fried potatoes. I can almost feel the molecules of eau de Diner permeating my hair and sweater, leaving me no choice but to bring them with me into the warm choir room at CFA.
It reminds me of an incident last winter, in which I had hurriedly taken steak out of the broiler moments before bundling up to attend a rehearsal. For the next hour, every student that entered the classroom inquired loudly, "Is someone eating steak in here?" or, "mmmmm. Steak!" I had to explain numerous times, sotto voce, that it was my hair they smelled.

Anyway, here I lounge in the Hometown Cafe, coffee at elbow, gearing up for a weekend of travel, errands, and rehearsals. The friendly clink of dishware and the rumble of easy conversation peppered with an occasional belly-laugh is a pleasing antidote for the apprehension I sometimes feel when faced with a tight schedule.
I size up my next 48 hours: Will I have a safe journey? Meet everyone on time? Bluff through rehearsals that I'm never quite ready for? Find the girls at the airport and cart them home in a timely manner?
Sure I will.
It's invigorating to have a different kind of weekend ahead of me; a much neeeded break from the hum-drum. If anything challenging comes my way, I'll face it with pluck and courage, Lord willing.

Perhaps a piece of birthday cake for breakfast isn't such a bad idea, after all.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


from my little black book:

Friday: teach CFA choir
meet w/ a friend
attend Friend# 37's concert
drive to Albany
attend another concert!

Saturday: breakfast with sister
lunch with friend
pick up Friend #7 at airport
hug her a lot
travel home

Sunday: enter my next post
happily attend church

ta-ta everyone.....
Just Desserts

I ate three pieces of humble pie this week.

First Helping: I neglected to inform someone that I definitely would be out-of-town on Saturday, and couldn't help them out. It was important to them, and I just forgot.

Second Helping: an unobstrusive as I hoped to be as a guest-performer in a class, I walked in on someone else's performance. Bang. Right in the middle of an awkward situation. Profuse apologies swiftly followed, but the deed was done. Sigh.

Third, and Biggest Helping: I intended to accompany those 17 students in French Diction I, truly I did. Only I thought the class was at 1pm. A polite and inquisitive call from the prof at 10:25 am was enough to make me check my little black book: oops.

To top it all off, I could blame my mishaps on a tight schedule, but this has been a rather laid- back week. So, go figure.

There is a home-made apple pie in the kitchen, but I think I'll pass.
I've had enough pie for awhile....

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Junk Food

Today, on the way to #1 Son's violin lesson, he coerced me to
stop at Burger King. While mixing his BK ketchup with the extra ketchup from the glove compartment, he mused:

"Would you get a chemical reaction if you put
Burger King and McDonald's ketchup together?"

He makes me laugh.....
Forty Days

Welcome dear feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authority,
But is composed of passion.

It's true, we cannot reach Christ's forti'th day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Saviour's purity;
Yet we are bid, Be holy ev'n as he.
In both let's do our best.

Who goeth in the way which Christ hath gone,
Is much more sure to meet with him, than one
That travelleth by-ways:
Perhaps my God, though he be far before,
May turn, and take me by the hand, and more
May strengthen my decays.

excerpts from Lent (George Herbert 1593-1633)

Precious Lord, take my hand,
lead me on, let me stand.
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn.

Through the storm, through the night,
lead me on to the light,
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

When the darkness apears and the night draws near
And the day is past and gone,
At the river I stand, Guide my feet, hold my hand,
Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.

(Thomas A Dorsey)