Interesting, that part of my journey over the past year has included this strong and persistent voice saying, “You are more than a piano player. You are more than just a piano player.”

True, that.

But this week I am spending time with this instrument, which happens to be my favorite piano on earth. My hands rest on the keys and I feel home. It is incredibly difficult to describe; it’s more intuitive than anything else. A feeling, an emotional connection. Odd, I know, because to most, it’s just a piano.

But it’s more than that. And this particular instrument is home to me.

This morning, I played scales for a long time, round and round the circle of 5ths. Whole notes, then quarters, eighths, triplets, sixteenths – the same way I teach my current students. Arpeggios and broken chords followed. I played and played, and found myself so settled by the linear, mechanical certainty of how my fingers fell. “1-2-3-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-1-2-3-4….”

The patterns are etched into my brain.

I played a little Beethoven and the peace of dissonance and resolution settled me. Seems all is right with the world.

I am a pianist. I am more than that, surely; but at the moment I am reminded that at my core, built into my soul by my Creator, honed by years of diligent practice and a hunger for harmonic beauty, I am a pianist.

I’m resting in that today. And I am satisfied.

A Full Heart For Christmas

Since divorce divided our family, I’ve grown accustomed to flexibility for holidays. We share, and things generally go pretty well.

That continues. I’m grateful for the relationship I have with my kids’ dad and their stepmom. Many months ago, they asked my permission to have the kids spend the entire Christmas break with them; they wanted to plan a trip to Florida. They honored me by asking, and their reasoning was sound. I agreed.

That was about nine months ago. I’m still fully supportive of the idea, and excited for the kids and the fun I hope they’ll have. I am squirming a bit at the thought of two weeks without them, especially Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But as always, flexibility rules the day, and we’ve found a way to make it work.

So yesterday, after spending FOURTEEN HOURS at the church (and I’m not the only one…) as we prepare for Christmas week activities, I came home to our “Christmas Eve” celebration. We had a ham, and hot rolls and beans and a late dinner, followed by our traditional Christmas carols ’round the piano, the reading of Luke 2, the lighting of the blue Christmas candle and prayer. Santa sent an elf to stuff stockings (but he didn’t leave much else, since it’s not really Christmas….yet…) The kids woke up early and ran downstairs shrieking, and we spent the next three hours giving one another gifts.

I’m so happy that a tradition from their dad’s family continues to this day; each kid gives the presents they have for one another, one by one, in birth order. When new folks are around (like Tony and Travis this year), they slip into the system according to their birth date as well. We open gifts one by one and take a minute to appreciate the giver. It makes the morning VERY meaningful; I really do think that all of the kids have come to value the giving more than the getting. That makes my heart swell with joy. As they grow older and more independent (and with their OWN shopping funds), it’s really cool to see what they come up with on their own to give to one another.

My parents came by and added to the mayhem, giving and receiving gifts of their own. It was a warm, wonderful morning. I was blessed.

Traditions continue with a big pot of homemade potato soup (which is always accompanied by a hearty discussion of which potato soup is best, including my own – “The one you made with all the pepper that time!” – and others – “Mom, the potato soup at JMU sucks!”)

We’re winding down now; the kids are packing, the house is quiet, Tony is off running errands and taking the morning’s trash to the dump (an advantage of celebrating Christmas when it’s not really Christmas – everything is open!)

I feel blessed. I will miss my kids for the next two weeks – at times, probably quite desperately. But we have created family, one that is widespread and far-reaching, grounded in a common love for our Creator and His creation. We have memories and tenacious bonds of love for one another. That remains, regardless of distance. As they grow older, those bonds are stretched; each time, it seems, is a preparation for the next.

They leave in little ways, as it should be. But I’m finding that the residue of grace and love that they leave behind almost makes up for any sorrow in their absence.

My heart is truly full.

Shannon & Travis, singing in harmony…

Always, where I am most comfortable…

Shannon reads

Sydni’s turn

The Christmas candle…not even sure where it came from, but it’s now part of the family

Doing the Charlie Brown dance

More dancing!

The nativity scene is full this year

The Snow Storm And The Dawn Treader

What a crazy week. Due to snow (minor amounts) and broken water mains, my high school aged kids went to school once this week. Great for them, as they end up with a three week winter break. David had to go twice.

It was great to have them home so much more, but it made the entire week nutty. I couldn’t remember what day we were on, and I still can’t believe tomorrow is Sunday. Actually, today is Sunday. It’s almost 1:00AM and I’m nowhere near sleepy.

Today (uh…I mean yesterday) was Sarah’s 20th birthday, which meant dinner at my mom’s and loads of fun. We had to shop today, because add to the craziness the fact that we are celebrating Christmas Eve tomorrow night, with December 20th being our “Christmas morning” and you’ve got one upside-down, confused family. With a firm deadline on finishing all Christmas shopping before an all-day rehearsal at the church tomorrow….sigh….

I can’t keep sense of it all.

It has been a good week, though. One highlight: taking a break from work midday Friday and going to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third in the Narnia series. These stories are close to our hearts, as we listened to the entire series on audio books during a season of life that saw us making the eight-hour journey to Ohio on a monthly basis. We’d get closer and closer to the meeting place at Tamarack, and the kids would plead, “Slower, Mom! Slow down! We have to get to the end of this chapter!”

Aslan and Edward and Caspian championed us through a tough time of our lives. The movies are visual representations of some very powerful parts of our history.

This third movie is, in a word, awesome! I highly recommend it. Make sure you catch up on the first and second installments before you go. I was absolutely thrilled with the story, the characters, the actors, the special effects. I loved Eustace and the redemption of his terribly grumpy attitude. Loved the story; every time Aslan comes on the screen, my heart quivers and I cry.

Powerful stuff, this. The allegory is rich and surprisingly moving. Go see this movie. Take kids with you.

Try: Reverb10

December 18 – Try
What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it?

I read something on Facebook this week that caught my attention. It hasn’t left. It was a question along the lines of Have you made your house a home? If not, what are you waiting for?

We purged the attic this week. I was stunned by how much crap (excuse me) was up there. The majority of it was either thrown or given away. It was needless, mindless clutter.

I think my house is full of too much needless, mindless clutter. I would like to be intentional about creating a home – with things that matter, colors that calm and inspire, functional doors and windows and locks and appliances.

I tried to stay healthy and fit in 2010, but I just got lazy. I didn’t go for it. I’m carrying an extra 20 pounds because of it. I’d like to do something about this, too.

Lesson Learned: Reverb10

December 17 – Lesson Learned 
What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward? 

I learned – as in accepted, admitted, and owned – that I am not just a piano player.

I am applying that lesson on a daily basis, leaning into the responsibilities of my role at my job and leaning back into being the woman that God created me to be. It’s a strange brew at times, leaving some old assumptions behind and trying to stay centered while putting on the new me.

I had a vision a few months back that moved me forward in a deliberate way. This happened as our staff retreat began last summer; we were away for a few days sequestered in a house at Lake Anna. Our plan was to work on strategy and ministry plans. We also had a bit of work to do on ourselves.

For me, it was at the very beginning of the retreat. I had wriggled my way into the new skin of Married Again, learning how to wear another’s name, to share my bathroom and my bed, to ask before I decide. Within that transition, my work persona remained steady. But after six months, it was time to see all things with fresh eyes.

I wasn’t sure of what I was seeking, but I was prepared to take it in. And so I had this vision: I was walking toward the Creator, who was full of grace and gentleness. He is the face and figure of Christ. I moved towards him and felt accepted, completely. And then he held up a robe for me, as a gentleman would for a lady. His eyes asked the question; “Are you going to put this on?”

And he waited. It was my decision, obviously. He would not love me any less either way – that was clear. But he offered a garment.

And I knew that I’d heard the invitation I’d been waiting for. Not that it is a fulfillment of any great desire on my part – but the acceptance of my purpose. The confirmation of a call.

So this is what I have learned, through this vision, something supernatural and spiritual: I have learned that I am more than I was settling for. There is more, and it is offered freely.

The application will be tangible. Not long after that experience, I told my friend and pastor that I was ready to move forward with the process of ordination. I know that I have been called – not because I finally figured it out, but because I was called. It came in an unexpected and rather odd fashion, but I am called.

And I’m listening.

5 Minutes: Reverb10

December 15 – 5 Minutes
Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. 

January 1, I woke up married.

At the end of January, we had to cancel church due to snow. In fact, we had to do so for two consecutive weeks. It was energizing (jogged my memory a bit by reading this). I’m thinking about that day as we consider an impending snow storm this weekend…

We moved into the new church building. We started a campus at Westchester.

I saw Wicked with my mom and my girls.

David and I hung out at Emerald Isle for spring break while the other kids went to NYC on a mission trip.

We went to Florida, all of us on our first major road trip. We survived.

Shannon graduated, celebrated, got into JMU and moved to Harrisonburg. She grew up, broke up with Travis and grew up some more. Then got back together with Travis.

I became friends with Lindsay Harris, one of the greatest blessings of my life.

I walked through an immense valley of depression and the roller coaster of bipolar disease with two people that I love. I watched the evil of cancer nudge its way up to the heart of one of my dearest friends.

I lost a dear old friend who was born the same year that I was born, and realized that 47 is not old; we are young, yet, with much life to live.

Five minutes is not quite long enough to process an entire year….

Secret Ingredients

Made chili for dinner tonight. Added a special secret ingredient.

Can’t tell you what it is, but it begins with “peanut” and ends with “butter”.

Can’t tell you whose recipe it is, but his name starts with “Bo-” and ends with “-no”.

And I love him.


(He told me yesterday that he reads my blog every day, so everybody wave “hi” to Bob!!!)

Appreciate: Reverb10

I’ll never catch up, so I’m going to just jump back in:

December 14 – Appreciate
What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? 

I apologize for hitting on the same theme again, but it’s the marriage. I have learned to appreciate the institution of marriage itself; the partnership, the relationship. The give and take and the selflessness required to be married well.

our first month anniversary cake

I have come to realize many things as I have grasped a greater appreciation for a marital partnership. Most importantly, I’m seeing the value of relationships – any and all – in a new way. This is probably partly due to the strengths of my husband in this area, and also because I’m simply functioning in a healthy relationship. Much is required. Much is given. And much is gained.

I express gratitude every day, as best I can, through words and deeds. It’s a circular motion that necessitates a daily push. And I’m learning to appreciate the strong marriages I see around me, to pay attention and learn from those who are hanging in there and building something made to last. It matters.