Relaxing Happenings

Last week was so full, I was tired going into this week. Not that it was a bad kind of full. I had people over to my house and made dinner for them, taught lots of lessons, had some more people over, went to two fall parties and so on and so forth. Still, being the introverted soul I am, I have felt in need of some peace, quiet and solitude. Although this week has been busy in its own way, I still had some opportunities to unwind. I hope you don’t mind if I relive them for you here?

Relaxed happening, number 1: On Tuesday, I  didn’t have to teach until 3:30 in the afternoon. So, instead of driving my car around to do errands, I rode my bike. Off I went to downtown St. Joseph’s post office in search of some international postage for a letter I needed to mail. On the way back home, I was peddling my bike along the brick roads and through the leaves on the ground when I heard the church bells close by playing a hymn. I admit it was a bit cheesy because manual church bells aren’t that versatile. It was most likely some mechanized version of bells. Still, it was a lot of fun, whistling along to the familiar tunes as I peddled along. Next stop was the bank where I deposited a check. Money going into the bank has such a cheering effect on me.

Relaxed happening, number 2: On Tuesday evening, Justin and I sat down to watch Beyond the Next Mountain, the story of Rochunga Podaite. I’ve watched the movie close to ten times or more from the time I was a little girl until now. It never seems to get old. In my opinion, it was probably the first independent Christian film that was actually done right. The writing was amazing, the camera work was great, and the soundtrack was absolutely beautiful and fitting. A very surprising treat coming from the 1980s. Besides, the true story it contains is so inspiring. I realized just that evening, how much the film has effected me, my outlook on life, and the way I write. The full movie is available for free on Youtube. In fact, I think so well of it, I’ll embed it here so you can find it easily! The quality isn’t so awesome, but the overall experience is great.

imageRelaxed happening, number 3: While watching the movie, I began a project I’ve been wanting to tackle for a while–teaching myself to crochet. Yes, I know an obscure form of lace-making called tatting, but at the age of 29, I still don’t know how to crochet. So, I looked up a tutorial online and went at it. Here’s my first finished granny square. As you can see, it’s a bit gnarled at the bottom there. Still, I’d say it’s not too bad for a first effort. I have recently discovered the charm of granny square blankets. When I was a little girl, I used to think they were superbly ugly. But then again, all I had ever seen at that point were the ones in my grandma’s house. From the earth tones, I’m guessing they were made in the sixties and seventies. A change of color can work wonders, I’ve found. Now, granny squares just look comforting and homey. Perhaps, I’ll keep at it until I have enough to make a blanket to cover my bed!

 

Well, all the above have been the highlights of my week, thus far. And now, it is time for me to get ready for my three hours of teaching this afternoon. Until next week…

Nearer, My Savior

imageSometimes, I go back and read through my old journals. This can be both encouraging and discouraging. On the one hand, I can often see how I’ve grown as a person and a Christian. On the other hand, I can see how in some respects, I haven’t really grown at all. The weaknesses I dealt with ten years ago are the ones I’m still battling. Hopefully, a little less, but they’re still there. I have a generalized lack of trust and contentment. But God is still working on me.

Today, I stumbled across an entry from January 26, 2010. I’m going to share it here, because I did find it encouraging.

“Dear Journal,

A few weeks ago while at a Bible conference, I was standing in the middle of a crowd of young people, singing. The words to the song were projected onto a screen in front of us. It was one of my favorite hymns. Without much warning, the truth of it seemed to overpower me and soon my voice wouldn’t work. I stood there, looking up at the screen through misty eyes, listening to the people singing those beautiful words.

The hymn was, “Nearer, Still Nearer,” and it has effected me that way more than once. I am not a poet. But I have a great admiration for a poet who can speak the truth in such a way that is goes far beyond simple facts or, even worse, worn-out platitudes and clichés. But when he can present that truth, so that immediately I think to myself, “That person has felt the same way I have,” that’s what makes the difference. The words are powerful because of the experience of the author behind them. At the conference that day, there was not one verse of the song that did not directly apply to me.

Nearer, still nearer, close to Thy heart

Draw me, my Savior, so precious Thou art

Fold me, oh, fold me close to Thy breast,

Shelter me safe in that haven of rest

Shelter me safe in that haven of rest.

I run all day. I get up in the morning, hurriedly read a few chapters in my Bible, get ready for school, and rush out the door. I go to classes, do some studying, and drive to work. After work, I rush home, find something to eat and study some more. At the end of the day, I lay my weary head on the pillow. It is then that I realize God hasn’t entered my thoughts since I left the house in the morning. My mind flips back to all the times I allowed irritation and frustration and anxiety to get the better of me. “Draw me, my Savior…” If He did not draw, no one would come.

Nearer, Still nearer, nothing I bring,

Naught as an offering to Jesus my King;

Only my sinful, now contrite heart.

Grant me the cleansing Thy blood doth impart

Grant me the cleansing Thy blood doth impart.

It is after a long day of failures that I feel my bankruptcy most. All I have to give my Savior is a sinful, stubborn heart that will only come to Him because He draws me. I come asking Him to “grant me the cleansing…” because He promised He would not cast me out.

Nearer, still nearer, Lord to be thine!

Sin with its follies, I gladly resign,

All of its pleasures, pomp and its pride

Give me but Jesus my Lord crucified,

Give me but Jesus my Lord crucified.

When He forgives me and gives me His cleansing, I see the foolishness of my sin. I see the foolishness of me because I know that some time in my pride, I’ll do the same, stupid thing again. I am amazed at the love of God, that even though I am so foolish, He still loves and forgives me. He will take me back a thousand times. I know it because He is the one that draws me back. “Give me but Jesus, my Lord, crucified.”

Nearer, still nearer, while life shall last,

Til safe in glory my anchor is cast.

Through endless ages ever to be,

Nearer, my Savior, still nearer to Thee;

Nearer, my Savior, still nearer to Thee.

If it were not for Christ’s promise that He would finish what He began in me, I would lose hope. But I know that I am nearer and farther along than I was before because He draws me. He will draw me until I reach Heaven. There He’ll hold me up as a trophy of His grace, and I will finally have what I’ve always wanted, what I’ve fought against my human nature for. “Through endless ages, ever to be, nearer my Savior, still nearer to Thee.”

At Present

From my leaf collection!
From my leaf collection!

I am sitting in my room at my desk by the window. I think it’s marvelous that the window sill is wide enough to park my cup of coffee there without any fear of spillage. For the past several weeks, I have been getting my head wrapped around my new fall schedule. It does seem like life speeds up rather dramatically the day after Labor Day when I would most like it to slow down. That is the life of a music teacher, I guess. At this moment, I would really just love to be outside, walking the streets and looking at all of the reds, yellows, golds, greens and browns painting the tree line. Fall is my most favorite time of year. But duty calls and here I am writing, trying to complete my weekly update before it’s time for me to hit the road for the music studio twenty minutes away where I will attempt to instill musical knowledge in my students. I hope you’re grateful. Just kidding. I enjoy this, too.

Orchestra rehearsals began a few weeks ago. So, in addition to the next Union Gospel Press assignment I’m working on in the cracks, I am embroiled in Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Debussy and Poulenc. For my brother’s sake, I’m glad he has been out of the house whenever I practice the Stravinksy. Squeak! Squawk! Smack. In context with the rest of the orchestra, it sounds great. But by itself, it’s truly dreadful to listen to. Regardless, I’m looking forward to performing The Rite of Spring in November. That piece is a true accomplishment for any orchestra.

Besides practicing violin, teaching, and working on the Union Gospel Press assignment, I’ve been cogitating over my script. I finished the rough draft several weeks ago. Overall, it’s good work, but the beginning has some issues. So, I’ve been pondering how to fix them this last month. It seems like my brain works that way a lot. I often write things, look at them askance, set them aside for a long time, pick them back up and then, click, things all falls into place. I’m hoping the same thing happens with this script.

In spite of all my heavy responsibilities, I’ve still found time to enjoy the season. The other day, I went searching through my thick books for the fall leaves I’d pressed between their pages last year. My collection of dried, colorful leaves is getting larger every year. I like to hang them around the house so I can sigh in satisfaction when I look at them. I’m not sure Justin is entirely pleased with my decorating sense, but he tolerates it. Hey, it’s the small things in life that make me happy.

It is now time for me to attend to more business. I have a list a mile long which I will attempt to shorten before I leave for teaching today. I wish you all a Happy Fall!

Trip to Dixon

The theater before anyone arrived
The theater before anyone arrived

On Saturday, I found myself traveling to Dixon, Illinois for a showing of The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club. I’d known about the showing for quite a while but didn’t think I would be able to make it. At the last minute, it turned out I could go after all. Dixon, for those who may not know, is the hometown of President Reagan, among other things. Those other things include a beautiful historic theater, which is where The Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club and The War Within played. The Petry family organized the whole event, fed us dinner and lunch the next day and gave us the pleasure of their company. Although the showing wasn’t as well-attended as the Petrys had anticipated, we still had about 75 people there or so I was told. During the showing, I heard little kids laughing quite a lot which is always a good sign.

The Reagan boys' bedroom
The Reagan boys’ bedroom

One of the things that really stuck out to me about Dixon was totally unrelated to the movies, though. Before the showing, Justin and I had a chance to tour Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home. I enjoyed that so much. It’s interesting to me that there are only a few presidents in America’s history that are spoken well of by people of completely different political persuasions. Of the handful that come to my mind immediately are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Personally, my favorite is Ronald Reagan.  He wore authority well, but he was kind. His eyes radiated with kindness.

imageHis house was relatively small and very simple, even for a house built in the eighteen hundreds. Downstairs was a kitchen, a sitting room and a parlor of sorts. Upstairs were three bedrooms and a bathroom. Ronald shared a simple bedroom with his brother who liked to snitch Ronald’s pennies. He was compelled to hide three of them under a tile in the hearth downstairs!

imageThe elderly lady that guided the tour told us that the Bible sitting on the chest of drawers in Mr. and Mrs. Reagan’s room was the same Bible Ronald held at his inaugural addresses. On the wall beside the room was a little plaque that said the Bible was left open at 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” I stood there and stared at that for quite a while, thinking within myself, “I wish we would all just do that.”

Thinking back on all the violence I’ve read about in the news at home and abroad, as well as the news of rapidly spreading disease, I’ve been doing a lot of praying. Praying that God would help us, protect us. But I always preface the prayer with the words, “I know we don’t deserve this, Lord, but could you please help us, anyway?” We don’t deserve protection because we, as a nation, have sinned. By law, we have protected murder through the abortion industry. By law, we have protected those who abuse and take advantage of God’s gift of sexuality through the pornography industry. We call good evil and evil good and then wonder why people run into their former places of work and attack helpless women with knives.

So, when I pray for my country, I pray that God would help me to turn from my own sin, and I pray that more and more people in America will have the courage to turn from theirs. Healing can only begin with repentance. So much evil would dry up at the root if there were simply no market for it. It would seem that Ronald Reagan understood that.

After we came back downstairs the elderly tour guide showed us around the kitchen and shared interesting trivia and pointed out objects of interest. She concluded her remarks by pointing out the magazine she was reading. “I’m reading about Marco Polo! They think he might have been to America.” We all sort of blinked, smiled and chuckled. Justin and I left her sitting at the kitchen table engrossed in her article and went off to buy some Jelly Bellies. In honor of the president, of course.

Photo credits to Justin Barber for all but theater picture at the top.