The content of this blog is the author's personal view. I am not a theologian, writer, or photographer. The views in this blog are based on personal experiences and not a judgement of what others are doing.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

7th Day of Christmas

One of the things in our goody basket from Dennis is Jamaican Coffee.  He travels there often and comes home with goodies to give away.  I always thought this was nice, and then we went to Jamaica for our 20th anniversary.  Then I thought it was awesome.  You can't buy Jamaican coffee here (to my knowledge, unless something's changed).  Hawaiian coffee is maybe the closest I've tasted.

While in Jamaica, I remember every morning I would comment on how good the coffee was.  I still didn't get it then.  It was so good.

So every year we get to drink special coffee at Christmas time, and now I get it.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Pack Homecoming

Ever since Tazer, our GSD has come into our house she has had her pack cry. We got her at 3 months old and at the time our son Kyle and daughter Sam still lived with us. The first night we had her, she cried and I took her out of her kennel and made a bed next to my side of the bed. She still cried, so I pulled her up into bed with me and she finally fell asleep. Our son came home later and was so excited to see the puppy, but I wouldn't let him because she was such a cry-baby.

So she bonded with two of our kids. Our oldest, Tony Jr was out on his own already and she will treat him like a stranger or at the least, an outcast. He has come in late at night when visiting and gets the danger-stranger bark. But whenever Kyle or Sam come home, there is a lot of howling going on. They are part of the pack and when they come home, there is a lot of celebrating!

Kyle came home last week for Christmas, and after traveling from Nashville all night went right to bed. When he got up, this is the greeting he got:

6th Day of Christmas

Life is like a box of chocolates:  
you never know what you're gonna get -- Forest Gump

One of the items in the gift basket from Dennis is a box of chocolates.  Actually two boxes, one regular and one sugar-free (for my husband who has Juvenile Diabetes).  I should be eating the sugar-free ones too!  And although we are winding down with Christmas eating, it is probably a good thing because my blood sugar that I have been watching is going up a little.  I don't have Diabetes, but it runs in my family and my fasting blood sugar has been getting higher as the years go.  So I keep track of it now.  I went on the Southbeach Diet for a week and a half and it brought my blood sugar down *considerably*.  May have to do that again at the 1st of the year.  Everything in moderation!

So with that said, I have enjoyed a chocolate a day from our little gift basket (well sometimes two)(or three).  Did you know that the square ones are the best?  My husband doesn't know this.  In fact, he was gathering some cookies to bring to his mom's on Christmas Day and he thought he would put some of (my) the chocolates into the mix.  Oh no.  Leave my chocolates alone!  He had no clue that I was eating them, but he wondered why the box looked half full.

I truly enjoy this little taste of the season.  No need to continue, but it is a nice little treat.  And I say:

Life is like a box of chocolates:  
keep trying until you get it right!-- Roxey Megna

Thursday, December 29, 2011

5th Day of Christmas

Sales!  I'm not a huge shopper, I don't go the day after Christmas.  I think I tried that once and wasn't impressed because I actually find better deals later in January, like my daughters Christmas tree for $15 (90% off).  I think after Christmas sales used to be better in years gone by.  Now they pretend that everything is discounted, but it really isn't.  But I am thankful to be able to pick up a few items on discount.

I like to hit the local stores, Walgreen's and Ace Hardware to see if there is anything that catches my eye.  I don't like spending money this time of year, but in all reality it just makes sense.  I tried the hardware store again today and they already had 75% off!  I was there two days ago, but figure things catch my eye differently with this little change, so I gave it another shot.  I have been looking at LED lights -- they're expensive!  But I'm not going to buy the others anymore.  So today these looked like something I might want to get.  $15 worth instead of $60 sounded good to me.

I have learned in past years that Christmas piano music doesn't ever go less than 50% off, so I was able to stop in the music store after my massage yesterday (it's kind of embarrassing because my face is still scrunched up) and check out what they had left.  I found some Christmas books for my students for next year (for my library) and then a Philip Keveren book for me. 

Although I won't use these things for another year, I am always pleasantly surprised when I bring my decorations out and find that little something I forgot about.  Oh, and pssst!  I found something for my daughter for next year!  Don't tell!  I almost accidentally had it in the background on one of my pictures.  Whew!

Look at the Sparrows

Matthew 10:29-31

I was walking last week during a fairly cold day and I noticed how every bush we walked by, a flock of sparrows would swoosh out and then they would settle back in not too far away.  I've realized this in the past that they mostly do this in the cold winter weather.

I don't know why it struck me, but I decided to take a picture.  I waited a few minutes and they started trickling back to the bush we scared them out of.  The dogs are amazingly patient when I take pictures.  They somehow know when I bring out my camera, we hold still for a minute.  They also know I am looking at something they might be interested in and I think they are looking to see what I see.

So as I was walking this week, there was a little commotion on this block.  They were cutting a tree down and there was a bull-dozer doing some work.  I was going to walk quickly through, but I noticed the wedge in the tree.  It was ready to go down any second right where we were walking (someone was watching).  So I backed up some so the dogs wouldn't get too scared.  Down it came.  As we walked further, I realized they were bulldozing all the scrub bushes that I had noticed the sparrows in last week.  It is an empty field in the middle of town, waiting to be developed.

It made me think about the cold sparrows.  I thought it was weird that I noticed them in these very bushes a week before they were demolished.  These bushes have been here for a long time and ever since I've walked the area, a good 6 years.  Their shelter is now gone.  But somehow I know they are OK.  Even if they weren't OK, it says that not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  God is in charge and it's going to be OK.  Actually, it's going to be awesome!

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.
But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:29-31 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

4th Day of Christmas

Oops! I was off on my days.  The first day of Christmas is Christmas Day, not the day after.

Massage Connection in Appleton, WI

Today was my yearly After Christmas Massage.  I schedule an hour and a half the week after Christmas.  This isn't a luxury for me, more of a maintaining.  I have included this in my budget since I started teaching piano.  This Christmas wasn't as stressful as any previous, but I still felt like it was all just a little much.  Too much eating (although I've been pretty good) and too much visiting crammed into one day (although I enjoyed it).

I have been going to Massage Connection in downtown Appleton for quite a few years.  It doesn't seem so much spa like to me as healing.  I like that about them.  They are extremely helpful and will do anything to help you. 

 I got home and drank a ton of water as I enjoyed making a tasty supper of tenderloin and winter salad.  The last few days since Christmas I haven't been very focused, but after massage and acupuncture I always am more productive and calmly focused.

It is one of the days of Christmas that I REALLY look forward to.  I feel ready to face a New Year!!!

3rd Day of Christmas

My Christmas Mugs
 My Christmas Mugs are one of the first things to come out in December.  They are mostly music mugs, but a few of them aren't.  Not that they all have music notes on them, but they are phrases from Christmas tunes.   For some reason I really enjoy drinking my coffee from these mugs during the holidays and I'm always sorry to pack them away.  Most are from rummage sales or second hand stores.  A few are gifts from people and I think of them every time I use their mug.

I think this is my favorite

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The 2nd Day of Christmas

Every year, we get a gift basket from our friend Dennis.
It's one of those things you can hardly pay back because
it is just packed full of goodies!

Dennis was in an accident years ago and rolled over his car.
My husband was the first one on the call, just doing his job.
Dennis says he does this because he is thankful for everything Tony did.
Tony says he didn't do anything out of the ordinary.

This is one of those things that seems little,
but is really, really big to me.
I need to take lessons in this,
that everything doesn't have to be grand and cost a ton of money.
Small gestures of kindness are sometimes the biggest,
and when I am tired during the holidays
and overbooked with playing in church,
just having some extra treats on hand is such a blessing.

So Dennis blesses us,
and we are blessed with little goodies and treats for weeks,
and we can bless our family with goodies during the holidays.

Monday, December 26, 2011

First Day of Christmas

Oh yes I would!  But don't worry, I won't make it too obnoxious.  I plan on posting little tidbits about Christmas that I really like.  I don't plan on counting things, except the days.  I've realized the last few weeks that there are little things, little moments, little blessings tucked into this crazy season that I would just like to acknowledge.   If anything, so I can look back and be thankful.  You are welcome to join me.  Maybe you will see little things too even if Christmas wasn't just how you thought it should be. 

Christmas actually just started with Christmas Eve going into Christmas Day.  We like to do more, add more, make things bigger and better and pretty soon we have Thanksgiving and Christmas all melded into one crazy Holiday!  Didn't they used to decorate their Christmas trees on Christmas Eve?

So the twelve days of Christmas leads up to Epiphany when the Wise Men visited the baby Jesus.  So it is just beginning, at least in the church year when we really don't sing a Christmas song until Christmas Eve.  But we will be singing them for the next 12 days!  I like it because it isn't overdone.  There is no competition from television commercials.  Actually it's a depressing time of year for many people.  But our joy goes on as Christians!

And so I begin with... my refrigerator!  Actually it's an extra fridge.  I have been semi-complaining year after year about not having room whenever we cook for more than just 2 people that I don't have room to put the extra food.  Our fridge holds enough for a weeks worth of everyday food.  Two houses ago, I had a back porch that we used in the winter time.  In this house, I have used the hood of the car for turkey or ham that I am too tired to debone on the holiday. 

So this year my husband came home from hunting (for a week) and asked if we wanted to get a fridge.  I almost hesitated and then said 'Yes!' quickly because he was buying.  We were going to put it in the garage, but we read that the newer fridges don't do well in the cold weather and I have the garage door open during piano lessons.  So.... it had to go down in my laundry room.  So besides a washer and dryer, there is 2 small chest freezers and now a small refrigerator.  It works.  And I have used it a LOT this month.

And just about every day when I run downstairs to put something in or take something out, I am thankful for this little blessing!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Christmas Story

The Christmas Story according to Luke, the 2nd Chapter:

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken
of the entire Roman world.
 (this was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 
And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea,
 to Bethlehem the town of David, because
he belonged to the house and line of David
.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him
 and was expecting a child.
  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. 
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,
 keeping watch over their flocks at night. 
An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the
glory of the Lord shone around them,

 and they were terrified.

 But the angel said to them,

 "Do not be afraid.

 I bring you
good news of great joy
 that will be for all the people. 

Today in the town of David
 a Savior
has been born to you;

 he is Christ the Lord. 

This will be a
to you:
 You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared
 with the angel,

praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,
 and on earth peace to men
 on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them
 and gone into heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
 "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off
 and found Mary and Joseph,
 and the baby,
 who was lying in the manger. 

When they had seen him,
 they spread the word
 concerning what had been told them about this child,
 and all who heard it were amazed
at what the shepherds said to them.

  But Mary treasured up all these things
 and pondered them in her heart.
  The shepherds returned,

 glorifying and praising God
for all the things
 they had heard and seen,

which were just as they had been told.

Monday, December 19, 2011

David Crowder Band - SMS [Shine]

I was listening to some of my 160-some Christmas tunes this past weekend.  I put it on shuffle so I would get an assortment.  Somehow I got a Garth Brooks Christmas CD and it was part of the shuffle. I'm not necessarily a huge Garth Brooks fan, but when I heard his voice, I started crying because it reminded me of my brother Pete. I didn't realize this before, but Pete's voice sounded a little like Garth.   My brother died a few years back of a sudden heart attack at 50, leaving a wife and family and grand kids he's never met.  Pete used to love singing, but I don't think I heard his voice nearly enough.  Somehow you figure that out after they are gone.  I remember thinking at the funeral that there was nothing good about any of it. 

I am always amazed how music can trigger memories or just make you think of something.  When I first heard the song SMS (Shine), my daughter Sam and I were traveling to Nashville to visit family.  We were talking about the song 'How He Loves' on the David Crowder CD 'Church Music'.  We decided we needed to buy the cd, so we started looking for Walmarts off the highway.  We found one in Paducah, KY.  We were probably in the store 10 min.  When we stop, we stop fast.  We have timed ourselves for potty breaks on the road and we can do it in less than 5 min.  (just a random fact I thought I'd share)

In listening to the whole CD, I didn't like it much at first.  It's kind of loud and I didn't get it at first.  In listening to it more, I realized the CD is the story- God's story all packaged into one little package in music form.  It starts out with the creation, covers 'the fall' and the need for a savior and how much God loves us, and ends with the final days.  Yeah, I didn't really like the last songs.  They were really loud and well, crazy.  It took me a while to get used to it and then I realized how we like to make things all neat and pretty and 'angelic' all the time.

A lot like the Christmas story.  We have our nice nativity scenes showing this perfect little picture.  I'm not knocking them, I have many.   I like remembering what the season's all about.  But sometimes we look at things through rose colored glasses.  I was at Bible class last week and I don't remember how we got onto the subject, but our Pastor was explaining the temple and what it was like and drawing a sketch.  He was explaining how the animals were sacrificed, the need for them to do this, and that it was basically a slaughter house.  That was enough for me, but one of the elderly ladies mentioned that if you think about it they had to gut the animals right there.  I stopped her.  I said I couldn't handle blood and guts lately.  And then I blurted out "I'm so glad we don't have to deal with all that blood any more!"  It hit me immediately when I said it and then the Pastor explained how we can have 'Cheap Grace'.  We make God sending his Son as a sacrifice for our sins into a cute little manger scene and we don't talk about that stuff at Christmas.

I always liked this song just in listening to it.  It addresses our need for a saviour in this hurting world.  When I watched the video at first I didn't get it and maybe there are still some things I don't get.  It didn't seem to match the song at first.  Here we have a nice song about Jesus coming into the world and the video (done in Light Bright) shows a couple living their lives and in the end she dies. 

There is a plant in every scene and I thought it was odd.  When I thought about it some more, I thought it looked like some kind of rose and then I remember that The Rose of Sharon is symbolic of Jesus.  In looking it up I came across this explanation:

By using the rose flower as a visual symbolism of Jesus’ love for us, we can better see and appreciate what God is trying to tell us in the personal love relationship that He wants to establish with each and every one of us. He wants all of us to realize how special His love is for us, and that He wants more than anything else to be able to enter into this personal love relationship with each one of us. http://www.bible-knowledge.com/jesus-as-the-rose-of-sharon/
I think that is what he was trying to depict here.  The fact that the 'rose' is on every scene in their life and in the end... in the end it over takes even death.  The penalty for our sin is death.  Loved ones die and there seems to be no reason.  We will die someday.  Death is bad.  It is our punishment for sin.  But God sent a savior to be sacrificed in our place to overcome death.  And because of that we have hope, and we can have Jesus (God's gift) sharing our lives from the good times to the bad, helping us AND we can live forever with him.

PS- enjoy the little 'marshmallow band'.  I also noticed the piano is playing in the background and something is dancing on the couch!

PSS- there IS one more thing I realized just before publishing.  The songs' bpm (beats per minute) is around 66 bpm.  I know this because I got my metronome out when I realized that the rhythm of the song is like a heartbeat.  Average heartbeat for a man is 70 and 75 for a woman with a range of 60-100.  Life.  Jesus is with us all through our lives.  Through the good and the bad.  And in the end, He overcomes.  Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Show me Your Glory (by Third Day) with lyrics

Third Day is a favorite Christian band of mine.  They are southern rock.  They also have some awesome worship songs.

I heard this song this past week, and it struck me different than usual.  I've known the song since it came out.  I always thought it had something to do with a Mountain Top experience.  A time when you really saw God work in your life and it changes you forever.  So I always thought it was a nice song, and then I had a few moments where I knew without a doubt that God is working in my life - personally, and there was no going back and I liked it even more.

I was thinking about the Angels of the Christmas Story and how the 'Glory of the Lord shown round about them'.  That's when I heard this song on the radio and I realized that maybe it was written about Christmas.  It fits so well and now I am liking the song even more after this revelation.

So then I was thinking how we are all looking for some 'sign' in our lives.  A sign that there is a God.  A sign that God loves us or cares about what we are doing.  That we won't (or can't) believe unless we see some sign.

I realized then just like the angels filled with the glory of God that He is sending 'signs' all the time.  Signs in nature: the stars, the fact that the sun comes up everyday faithfully, wildlife, the seasons, all filled with the Glory of God.  Looking at your grandchild (or child), how can you not see God's glory?  When you witness an act of forgiveness that you know would be humanly impossible, the Glory of God is shining brightly all around.  A simple act of kindness, when that isn't the norm for today's world exudes God's glory.  A person feeding hungry children shines with the glory of the Lord.  Loving the unlovable (people we can't get along with, people different than us, people that smell bad, people that are jerks) shines the Glory of the Lord.  And I could go on.

It's like the Christmas Story.  We can look at it glazed over like it is some ancient childhood story, or we can see the glory in it.  It's all around us and it's been there all the time.  We just have to choose to see.

Friday, December 9, 2011

It's my Husband's fault

Turk is very happy his daddy is home
Ha ha, I could get in trouble with this one.  I have been thinking about Christmas.  My neighbor announced over a week ago on facebook that she was done with shopping, wrapping and had everything under the tree.  All she has left to do is bake a few cookies.  I think my jaw hung open when I read that.  And then I thought really, it shouldn't be so hard.  Just go and buy those gifts, wrap them and walla!

I told her she made me sick.  Actually I admire her a lot.  She makes things that I find very difficult look really easy.  It's not like she has a secret, she just does them.  I also told her maybe I could take some lessons from her.

So I've been thinking about this all week.  I've felt like a scrooge, even though I have the joy of the true meaning of  Christmas in my heart.  Every time I watch a commercial, I am reminded of what a failure I am because although they are telling me to spend, spend, spend I don't feel like that is what I should do.  They make me feel like I won't be happy unless I do certain things, play certain music, buy a real Christmas tree.  I won't have 'joy' unless I get cable (I have it and have not seen joy come out of it and would like to drop it).  I have spent a lot of the week with the news off.  Thanks to my 'smart phone' I can check the weather quick before I walk, although Turk is pretty good at it.

All week I have been wondering what holds me up from getting everything done at Christmas.  Well, besides not having extra time to do extra stuff,  I think I could just do it.  I could spend an afternoon putting the tree up and all the decorations.  Just spend an hour and do all my shopping (on line). Everyone is giving us their lists (in the family).  Oh no, wait.  Not everyone.  My husband doesn't have a list out.

This is what happens every year.  What do you want for Christmas?  Answer: Don't get me anything, I don't need anything.  That's it.  The end.  We never hear another word.  Well, once in a while he will mention some $15 item that is so bizarre only he could find it. 

My husband has bought me wonderful gifts every year.  Even when he doesn't know what to get me, (I think he had trouble last year) it ends up being wonderful (he got me a Denali blanket, which is the coziest most wonderfully warm, comforting blanket to lay on the couch and stay warm.  It's a 'blankey').  He surprises me all the time. 

One year, it must be 19 years ago (Meggy was a puppy that year), he had a painting made of the Cana Island Lighthouse in Door County.  We had camped there.  Our first camping trip as a family.  The campground is no longer there, but we were right next to the lighthouse island and would walk over to the island every day.  He had a local artist and friend (love) do a watercolor from a picture I took on a vacation there (double love).  I laid down in the daisies and took the picture.  I brought the painting everywhere that Christmas to show everyone.  I have gotten diamond rings (two besides my wedding ring), diamond earrings, a baby grand piano.  All from my husband.  All surprises.  How do I top that?

A couple weeks ago, he was gone hunting for a week.  The family has been asking me what to get Dad for Christmas.  When he got home, he went straight onto nightshift.  I gave him instructions to think about what he wanted and write it down in between keeping the city safe all night.  The next day he didn't have anything.  So with the (partial) family together for the Packer game, we cornered him.  Once cornered, he started rattling off a few things into thin air.  Not good enough for me.  I'm a visual.  I need to 'see' it.  So I gave him the scissors and told him to start cutting and pasting.

I suppose I can't blame my whole Christmas dilemma on him.  He IS hard to buy for, but this year especially he is helping me a little more.  He took the boys of the family and shopped and I had the girls.  I put a few lights up and he put a few more up.   I also observed him a little.  When he has something he needs to get done, he goes at it ruthlessly.  Tazer is afraid of him doing yard work because he always looks mad when he is on a mission.  Me, I like to enjoy the journey.  If I am doing yard work, I like to go about it in an enjoyable way.  Maybe put on some good music.  This may be my problem with shopping.  I don't like it.  There is no enjoyable way for me to go into a mob of crazed shoppers and come out saying "That was fun!"  But maybe I can learn something from my neighbor and my husband and just do it, like the Nike commercial. 

So this may be the first year in history that I am not overly stressed about the whole Christmas thing.  Thanks in part to my husband.  He has helped me more this Christmas, than any other.  Not to say he maybe hasn't wanted to help before, but maybe I just couldn't tell him how he could help.  I am looking forward to next week when I have 'vacation'.  My students ask me where I am going and I say "Nowhere!  I'm just going to put my tree up, bake cookies and wrap presents! 
Tis the season!


I have always been fascinated by angels.  Mine (guardian angel) probably doesn't float around all peaceful.  They are probably more like football players trying to figure out which way I'm going to move so they can intercept at any given notice.  I've probably had some put out a few fires (me and fires), block my children from getting run over (Tony Jr. crawled across the street once), blocked me from a car crash or two.  I imagine that my angel has to move pretty fast, because I will just be sitting around looking like I'm going to stay that way forever and then all of a sudden I move.

I have a hunch that maybe I've seen one or two of my angels, but I will never know until I get to heaven.  I have said quick 'arrow' prayers.  Help!  And what unravels after that is jaw dropping as I go over the events of the day.  I have had the most bizarre *people* come into my life at what seems like not very normal circumstances.

I have had bad days where I felt all alone and unloved only to have an *elderly lady* announce at the nursing home "Roxey's playing today?  I LOVE it when Roxey plays!"  I looked at her and had never seen her before.  Plus the fact that no one really knows my name (or remembers it).  They know me as the lady with the dog.  I never saw her again.  (A messenger telling me how much God loves me at just the right time?)

My sister (Jean) and I went to hear a speaker a couple of years ago.  We took a shuttle over to the arena and they said they would wait for us after (around 11pm).  We met some *ladies*, sisters, on the shuttle and sat with them.  Afterwards there was no shuttle anywhere.  We were only a mile from the hotel, but it was through an open field.  Not very safe if you ask this cops wife.  So we walked, the four of us.  These *ladies* did not walk like they were in their 60's which I assumed they were.  I walk every day and they were keeping stride if not ahead of me.

The next day we decided to meet in the hotel lobby and they would drive the mile over.  My sister and I sat in the back seat and I was so impressed with her driving!  She had moves of a race car driver!  She didn't hesitate like maybe we do as we get older because we don't see the same or our muscles don't react the same.  She was awesome.  And then to top this all off, which is the main reason I don't think they were from this earth:  In sitting for the day in the arena, they didn't go to the bathroom ALL DAY!  Of course maybe they had Depends on, but I don't know.  That was very bizarre.   (Angels for protection?)

So my experience with angels goes on and on.  I am not talking about worshiping angels.  God is to be worshiped, but He has sent his angels to watch over us and be messengers.  I remember when our older son moved from Wisconsin to Arizona to go to school.  His 18 yr old brother followed along.  They loaded up the van and a U-Haul trailer and headed off.  It was a long trip and not without issues even when they got there.  Some I probably don't even know about.  But as they left I said a prayer: God send an angel to watch over them.  Immediately I thought "they need more than that!" so I prayed: Cancel that angel and send an ARMY of angels to watch over them and good people all along their way.  I wasn't too concerned about them after that.

Not sure why I've mentioned all these things, but maybe to just relay that I do believe in angels.  Sometimes we like to add things to the angel thing.  I believe what the Bible says about angels.  What they do is bring glory to God.  In giving messages, in watching over us.

So in thinking about the shepherds in the Christmas story seeing angels appear in the dark night must have been quite a sight.  They were used to looking in the night sky.  They didn't have cable or hand held video games.  They just stared at the sky every night.  Too see angels appear suddenly probably caught their attention-  and then to hear them singing!  I don't think they thought about it too much, whether or not they were seeing things.  They listened and then they went and they found Jesus lying in the manger.  Just as the angel said.

But as he considered these things, behold, a angel of the Lord
appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David,
do not fear to take Mary as your wife,
for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  -Matthew 1:20

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11

Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts
-Psalm 148:2

Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father,
and he will at once send me ore than twelve legions of angels?  -Matthew 26:53

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Merry Christmas!
Shepherds (the ones that watch sheep and never take a shower) are dirty and smell.  They have bottom of the ladder jobs.  According to Wikepedia: The duty of shepherds was to keep their flock intact and protect it from wolves and other predators. Shepherds also lived apart from society, being largely nomadic.

I am always amazed by the Christmas story when I actually think about it.  If I don't think about it, it becomes a glazed over religious tradition that gets stuck in the middle of Christmas shopping and cooking and cleaning, etc.  But when I actually think about it, just the fact that the shepherds were the first people to hear about the birth of Jesus is pretty amazing since they were nobody to society.  The fear and awe of seeing angels in the dark sky with the glory of the Lord shining on them would be pretty weird, crazy and just plain awesome.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is Christ the Lord.

This will be a sign to you: 
You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel,
praising God and saying.

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on
whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,
"let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby,
who was lying in the manger.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,
and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.
The shepherds returned,

glorifying and praising God

for all the things they had heard and seen,
which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:8-20

David Crowder Band is one of my all time favorite Christian Artists.  He doesn't have an angelic voice.  He doesn't speak 'Christianese'.  He just exudes joy.  Joy in the form of a guy with hair sticking out all over and funny glasses and a quirky sense of humor (My son-in-law Dan looks like him!). 

I downloaded his Christmas album (for $6.99!) from itunes this past week.  At first listen, I hear just the same old Christmas tunes.  But as I listen further, I start seeing the genius in his music.  I don't think this is a genius of himself.  He is letting God have his way with his music and it comes out well, very unconventional.  I like how David Crowder 'mixes it up'. 

Silent night, done very worshipfully with just guitar (oh my! how non-churchy! It was done that way the first time, when the organ broke) with everyone singing together in corporate worship.  But it ends in a jam-session.  Like the joy of the song telling the birth of our Saviour just can not be contained and he breaks out in song.  O Holy Night ends with a simple 'Alleluia' being sung.  Alleluia means "Praise the Lord".  Carol of the Bells seems to be a rock opera (without the words) of which instrument can praise God the loudest.  Kind of a dueling Wishing You A Very Merry Christmas.  Wouldn't we be surprised if when we got to heaven the angels were doing a kind of dueling rock opera praising God kind of thing! 

When I downloaded this, I clicked on some arrow and thought I messed up the order.  When an artist makes a CD, I don't know if you realize how much thought is put into the order of the songs.  Well I don't think I messed it up because there is a flow from the birth of Jesus, to the angels appearing and so on. Last on the CD  is Angels we have Heard on High.  It is a polka.  It is a hoe-down.  There is banjo and fiddle.  I am wondering if he meditated on the story of the shepherds and this is his rendition of what it maybe was like for the shepherds.  I love it.  The same story, but told maybe just a little differently.  Because we are all just a little different and according to the story, it is good news of great joy for all people.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

O Come, O Come Emmanuel with Agnus Dei

I want to apologize right away for my squeaky pedal.  When I play, I usually can't hear it because I am concentrating on the piece.  I had it looked at, but it seems worse now. 

I have been practicing hard trying to spend time every day rehearsing Christmas songs.  After many years, you end up with quite a repertoire, but that doesn't mean that you can play all of them in one sitting.  I have chosen a handful to practice.  Some for Advent and some for Christmas day.  Other years I have enjoyed more secular selections, but am sticking to just what I need to perform for this year.  I find practicing very physically tiring and sometimes I don't have the strength in my arms that I would like.  When I first saw me on video, I was very surprised because it didn't show my shoulder pain that I have to work through while playing. 

So "O Come O Come Emmanuel" seems to be a more popular song in the Christian Contemporary world.  Like it is being re-discovered.  I think that is neat, because it keeps things fresh when artist's do something old and make it new again by adding their own touch.  We have been doing this song in church  well probably since I was little.  But I know for sure that since I've been an adult, it is a huge song for Advent, the preparation time before Christmas.

I love it that the song isn't new to me, but I also love to hear it done differently.  Putting old with new, minor key with major key, old testament with new, I love how music can be used to help tell a story.  I like to point out to my students all the Christmas songs I can that are written in minor keys.  What I have noticed is that they are usually mysterious and sometimes longing, like we are waiting for something that we haven't seen yet.

In this piece, Philip Keveren takes O Come, O Come Emmanuel in a minor key and pieces it with Agnus Dei, which is major.  The longing for the messiah and the joy of the messiah being here with us.  Wikipedia has an interesting write-up on the song and it's origins:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_come,_O_come,_Emmanuel

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel. 

Agnus Dei

For the Lord God Almighty reigns
For the Lord God Almighty reigns
Holy are You Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb
Worthy is the Lamb
You are holy
Holy are you Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb
Worthy is the Lamb

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turks Weather: Do NOT Play in the Leaves

Need I say more?

A Frosty Walk

A Frosty start to our morning walk

Feeling rather tall this morning

There is a church way off in the distance on the highest point
zoomed in
dogs rolled in the frost and then were looking for deer
This is where we have seen them in the past weeks

Waiting for me
I had to throw a bag of dog poo away

There is a very small layer of ice forming on the creek

sea gull fishing

Ice on the canal by the mill

A final roll in the frost

Friday, November 18, 2011

The War of the Gingerbread

Gingerbread Wars
Woke up this morning to see what has probably been happening all week.  Gingerbread Wars.

Turk stole his Christmas present out of my grocery bag a week ago (Naughty Boy post).  He carried it around all week.  Within a few minutes he had the squeaker 'killed'.  That's why we don't buy them many toys.

I gave Tazer her gingerbread 'lady' to make it even.  She always hides her 'babies' outside in a hidden spot to keep them safe.  I didn't really catch when she brought hers out.

But somewhere during the week the war broke out.  From what I see, Turk knew that Tazer still had a good squeaker in her toy.  It was probably hidden in a safe place and Turk must have found it and is claiming it because it has a squeaker in it.  Squeakers make our dogs act like animals.

Turks forlorn gingerbread
Carrying Tazer's gingerbread everywhere today
To piano lessons
Still has it in the evening
Not sure how this will end except that Tazer always seems to get her way in the end.  She will let Turk do his thing and then she just does what she has planned all along.  But Turk will probably not give up until the squeaker is dead.  I probably won't find out until next spring after the snow melts and I start my spring gardening.  Then I will probably uncover a lady gingerbread man that has been safely hidden all winter.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I just read the book "My Grandfather's Blessing".  It is making me think about how much I love blessings.  How I love to receive them.  How I want to bless my family, my husband, my children and my grandchildren with them.  Strangers too.  It is making me think about how we can bless others and how we can refuse to be blessed.

I remember as a child and to this day, my favorite part of Sunday morning service is the blessing at the end.  Not because church is finally over, but because, I guess as a child I remember thinking about God's face shining down on me and I liked that.  I still do.  I have almost missed playing the "Amens" on the organ because I was so engrossed in receiving my blessing.

I was thinking about this for a couple weeks and something bothered me.  We all know blessings are a good thing.  But to just take, take, take seems a little selfish.   I used to have a hard time taking something from someone when they offered.  When they were trying to bless me, I refused it.  No, no I can't take that, or I can't let you do that for me.  But somewhere along the line, I started realizing that it was necessary.

At the coffee shop in town, I get to witness how it should really work.  Frank is a 70 something man that is an icon there.  He is there just about every morning.  I walk the dogs to the coffee shop a few times a week (are you surprised why I named the walk the 'Frank Walk' to my dogs?).  Frank comes out and gives the dogs a dog biscuit and when I mention that I am going to stop by later, he always says "I'll buy you one!" 

I know that Frank doesn't have a lot of money.  I do not want to take his money.  If anything, I should be buying him a cup.  A couple hours later when I am back, he is up getting me a cup of coffee the second he sees me.  And he serves it to me exactly how I like it.  It is humbling to receive this act of service.

I know this is something he has to do.  I also know that if I don't accept his blessing of giving and serving, that I will stop the flow.  What I see happen at the coffee shop is that somehow Frank always has a free coffee card or a buck or two in his wallet.  Sometimes I get to sneak something to him.  Sometimes he lets me bless him with a cup of coffee before he can get to me first.  But I know that people that come and go there will pass along free coffee cards to him.  So it comes full circle.

In church this week, the sermon was about stewardship.  The readings were about the Parable of the Talents.   It put the final piece of the puzzle in place.  We are all blessed.  How we take our blessings, be they talents/gifts, money, and what we do with them is what makes this come full circle.  So if we take our blessings from God with a closed fist and just keep them for ourselves, nothing happens.  Eventually you will be stuffed full of blessings and there will be no more room for anymore.  But if you receive your blessings with an open hand, willing to receive and willing to give away, there is a flow.  God gives and because of these blessings, we are free to give them away.  This brings glory to God which is what we were made for.

The Lord Bless you and keep you,
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you
and give you peace.

-Numbers 6:22-26

Monday, November 14, 2011

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing - piano solo

Come, Thou Fount of ev'ry blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.
While the hope of endless glory
Fills my heart with joy and love,
Teach me ever to adore Thee; May I still Thy goodness prove.

Here I raise my Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I've come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wand'ring from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor Daily I'm constrained to be;
Let that grace now like a fetter Bind my wan-d'ring heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love,
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.

Oh, that day when freed from sinning, I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in the blood-washed linen, How I'll sing Thy wondrous grace!
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry;
Take my ransom'd soul away;
Send Thine angels soon to carry Me to realms of endless day.

I have been wanting to share this as a song of the week for a while now.  For a couple reasons.  First I absolutely love this hymn and since we have gotten new hymnals at our church, they have included this hymn in it and we sing it more often.  Then I got a piano solo version arranged by Brian Chung.  I had gone to a workshop in Green Bay a couple years ago that he presented.  I bought his books and ever since I have wanted to thank him for blessing me with his arrangements. 

I got to meet up with him at the National Music Teachers Convention this past March and got to tell him personally.  He is a very talented and humble man.  He thought that I might be having trouble on another song in the book (I was) and he ran to a piano and showed me how it went.  He said the editors went back and forth on it about the counting, but that it really wasn't that hard.  I now have to learn For the Beauty of the Earth just because I was shown personally from the author of the arrangement himself!

Back to this song though.  The reason I love this arrangement is how he mixed it with Gymnopedie No. 1 by Erik Satie.  I don't know about you, but I first heard that song on a car commercial.  I like the way he mixed the two.  I don't think it was by accident.  Gymnopedie has a kind of traveling sound, like you are moving through life at a peaceful pace.  Probably why it was picked for the car commercial.  When I first started practicing it, it reminded me of Psalm 1 which is about the way of the righteous.  So the arrangement starts out just moving along peacefully and innocently.  I also noticed after many times of playing it, that the melody is solo without any harmony.  I don't know, but sometimes I feel like I am in charge on my walk with God and I am moving along at my own pace, innocent enough.

With the first verse of this hymn, the pictures that are drawn with words I think is what draws me to this hymn.  Right away: Tune my heart to sing your praise.  My heart needs tuning every day.  And being a musician, it has maybe more meaning because you realize that tuning never stays.  I just had my piano tuned the other day.  It took 2 hours to work on the piano (well we talked too), but just knowing the constant tuning of any instrument gives you an awesome picture of God constantly tuning our hearts.

My favorite verse is verse 3 where it talks about binding us with God's grace like a fetter.  I love the word pictures.  And my favorite: Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.  I guess when younger I thought walking with God was walking with God and you never strayed from that.  But I have learned now that I'm older and getting a little wiser that we are the biggest deceivers of ourselves.  In the piano solo, the music gets stormy - in the music it says to play with increasing passion.  I believe this is matching the words of verse 3.

After playing it many, many times I wondered if the last section is written with a certain purpose.  Either known or unknown by the author.  As we learn to be bound to God and learn to walk with Him, it's still not perfect.  The music goes into 4th's for harmony, which I have always considered pretty, but dissonant.  I wonder if that is his way of portraying this.  We are walking along, in step with God, slightly off but somehow making beautiful music together.

One more note on this.  We sang this in church this week.  Our Pastor's daughter is maybe 3 years old.  She LOVES to sing.  I have noticed there are certain hymns she loves and will belt them out at the top of her lungs.  This is one of them.  She can't read yet, but has many of the hymns memorized.  If she doesn't know the words, she sings la la la.  Loud.  It fills me with so much joy to hear her singing without any reservations.  Seems she has had her heart tuned to sing His praise!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Naughty Boy

Today I went grocery shopping.  Trying Friday instead of Saturday.  But the dogs don't care.  They know the routine.  I come home from the store and Tazer supervises me carrying in the groceries and Turk inspects the bags.  I probably don't realize how fast he checks them.  Until today. 

My husband was home for once to help unload groceries (I always want to bring a bagger from the grocery store home) and by the time we brought the last bag in, this is what we saw...

I asked Turk where he got it, but he wouldn't tell me.  He wouldn't look at me.  The Piggly Wiggly had their new Christmas doggy toys in and I decided to buy a couple before everyone got them.  At $1.99 I couldn't go wrong (dog toys are way too expensive). 

Turk, do you know the song "I'm Gettin' Nuttin' for Christmas"?

My grocery bag of Christmas toys
Very guilty

He will be showing every piano student
his toy for the next week

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Turks Weather: Snow Angels-everywhere-must do

The Plow

He got really fast by the end of the walk- it was hard to catch him
...but we just about hit every house!