Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Let the Bells Keep Ringing

"'What will this day be like?' I wonder.  
'What will my future be?' I wonder. 
It could be so exciting to be out in the world, to be free. 

My heart should be wildly rejoicing.
Oh, what's the matter with me?...."

Last week, I had to face a day that I had hardly pondered becoming a reality: I announced that I was stepping down from directing the New Hanover JuBELLees--the bell choir that I have directed for seven seasons.

A week later, there's a part of me that's still throwing up inside over having made that decision, even though I know it was the decision that I was supposed to make.

I had come to the determination a number of weeks ago. It was a troubling feeling. I had felt I lost my passion for what I was doing. Not that I didn't love handbells. This is my lifelong instrument--the only one I've been able to play with any real success. Not that I didn't want a handbell ministry to continue through my church. As a ministry, our group has seen individually, collectively and in the community what God can do through a handbell choir! Far more than all we had asked, thought or imagined!! (Ephesians 3:20)

I had been fulfilling multiple roles--conducting, playing in the smaller ensemble that was an offshoot of the JuBELLees, arranging contemporary music for the bells to play with our Praise Team, and directing in every other sense of the word as we navigated our busiest season ever. Was I just burned out? Or was there something else?

A couple of years ago, I had tried to launch a daytime group. I thought there might be other people available during the day who would like to come forward and ring. It would give us the opportunity to broaden the reach of the handbell ministry to more places--more senior communities or other audiences--while bringing on new people to learn the art of ringing. I handled the publicity. I planned music, organized resources and made myself available. The newspaper never ran my press releases (which was very odd for our small town paper not to do). I was never contacted. I was always alone in the room each week in which I had tried to have a rehearsal. Clearly, it was not to be!

Not that the thought left. And this is what came to settle within me as a new focus--a calling whose time had come.

In recognizing that, I had to share the news with the administrative director of the JuBELLees. One of the great blessings of this venture has been the growth in the relationship that I have with her. Early growing pains in knowing how to run this group and figuring out how to work together are long since gone, as we have become true friends and ministry complements. What I hadn't expected was that she was having her own struggle with calling and moment of focus epiphany. This would make our next steps all the more difficult, even as we were both shown such clarity.

We still had a season to lead and play through to completion, which we did. We received amazing tangible and prayerful support from our Minister of Worship and Arts (though he wasn't expecting this turn of events either). All we had left to do was to share the word with the group.


A dear friend posted this Facebook reply to me last week, as I was saying how hard it is to say no.

"You have to say YES to what GOD calls you to....not what PEOPLE want YOU to do! For years HE has been knocking at your heart."

She was surely affirming me in what I knew to be true. But to come before the people who have now become my sisters and brother and say, "I'm moving here. Go and may God be with you...." It felt like Major Tom had made his last communication before drifting off into space, or I was singing "The Breakup Song" for Greg Kihn.

This stinks! Change stinks!

I have been where they sat, and I knew the pain, the sadness, the loss, the confusion, the indecision, the ________. I didn't want to be the cause of that, and yet.... It gave me perspective on those who had "done it to me," yet whose purposes were similar to mine now. It's not a leaving; it's a change of focus. We are committed to keep meeting together; we have grown too close--we're family--we're not letting go of that. But....

(Sigh! And tears....)

*          *          *

Sometimes, I think we change things to make things easier for ourselves. Simplify our lives so we can enjoy the blessings of what we have. This change was not about that. I admit to doing a lot of (i.e.,too many!) good things at once--a longtime habit of mine with which I haven't successfully dealt. But this change will not make things any easier.

Obedience to a calling is an effort in itself--joyful and fulfilling, but they don't call it "works" for no reason. Within a couple days of the announcement to the JuBELLees, I had a meeting with a senior community. It was a new assisted living facility on our list for whom we played for Christmas and again just a couple weeks ago. I came in to ask if they were interested in having bells as part of their schedule of activities. The residents decided that they'd like to start a bell group, with weekly 30-minute rehearsals! I now find myself back to finding resources, planning music and taking on a new outreach challenge--"which God prepared beforehand" [in advance of my knowing the perfect time]. (Ephesians 2:10) And, at this time, there is the potential for two other groups.

But with that calling also comes being obedient to the words of Hebrews Chapter 10: "...And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another...." (Hebrews 10: 24 and 25a) Staying in leadership in this ministry, and encouraging and meeting together with those involved is a greater task, as there will not be a Monday night rehearsal for me. But how I long for all those with whom I have served to continue on!

Maria, the postulate, tries to sing her way into confidence through her long trip from the abbey to the Von Trapp residence. I chuckled to the activities director at the senior community that I looked like her on Friday, with bell cases, foam bag and music in tow. The prospects for new and fruitful service are great. But "leaving behind" my sisters and brother in the safety and security of where we have come up and served together is not a picture I want to leave frozen in time.

I am hopeful that as He has led me, that He will lead the rest of us to "climb every mountain." And as we COME BACK TOGETHER to share of where we are--the great things He has done--and that all the bells will ring in the steeple towers!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I Got Shoes

She called me again today with tears in her voice. I've spoken with her three times this week: the first, a casual call with a question, after which came some lively conversation; the second, unexpected, with a literal cry of devastation and a complete loss for words; today, the third, still with tears, but also with a request.

After a weekend of difficult news and many prayers, my friend just lost a friend. Not just any friend, but a friend of more than 60 years! A friend like a big sister. The kind of friend for which they wrote the "Grow old with me--the best is yet to be!" adage for the framed needlework sampler in your hallway.

When you're on the other end of the phone and this call comes in, you find yourself feeling pretty helpless. There are no suitable words. I know well enough to stay far away from pat expressions of sympathy. But I found it hard to come up with much beyond, "Oh.... Oh....," which sounds so useless on the phone. Yet when she called, within hours of my supposed to be seeing her, I knew I needed to tell her to stay home, which I did. Because the distraction of our meeting was not what she needed, raw in her emotions as she was.

I knew only a bit of how important this woman was in the life of my friend. And she was so very dear. In the past couple days, I have learned even more, and the depth of this friendship is something I don't know yet. What I do know is that my friend is grieving as she hasn't had to do--even though she has lost her husband already. This is quite different, and, no, it's not at all easier. Not the same and definitely not easier.

So, when she called, I was concerned. What she requested surprised me: ballet shoes.

She thought my girls were taking dance lessons. Not for a couple of years. She then was hoping I could lead her to a store that would sell her some ballet slippers. Long ago, she and her friend took ballet lessons together. With a visitation to attend, she wanted to bring something to this final goodbye that spoke of their special times together. Something her friend would "keep" on her way to eternity. Ballet slippers.

"Oh.... Oh...."

My first thoughts were of stores that are not in our neck of the woods. I knew she didn't have time or interest in a shopping trip. I thought of a local dance studio, and since I was on the computer when she called, I looked up information on their shop. No items listed.

As I was giving my friend the studio's phone number, I had another thought: "Do you need new ballet shoes or will any pair do?" It was clearly the idea of having ballet shoes that was more important than whether they were new. "I wore ballet shoes at my wedding," I told her.

Then it was her turn to say, "Oh.... Oh...."

Within an hour, I was on her doorstep. She couldn't have been more thankful. "She would have liked these," she said of her friend.

*          *          *

People keep a lot of things around their homes that maybe shouldn't be there. Over the years, I have lost a lot of sentimental attachment over things. I've seen too many things get old, broken, lose their effectiveness, fall out of style--not to mention seeing how many people don't have the basic things to get by in this complex world. It's just not about things.

My wedding slippers were not ballet shoes that I had ever worn in taking lessons. My wedding dress couldn't be worn with high heels, so instead of buying cream-colored flats that I thought I would never wear again [unlike the dress, right?!], I went with ballet slippers, which fell into the "something old" of the bridal "something's." They were never worn much past the wedding day. Still, there they were, in a labeled box in the attic. A future treasure to be unearthed.

As God would have it, though, today they are a treasure for a friend--not in a way I ever could have imagined, but in a way that couldn't be more beautiful.

"All God's children got shoes...."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tripping the Lights Fantastic

What seems like long ago on these pages--last summer--were pictures of CJ from a visit to a local treasure, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. She and I spent a long beautiful morning enjoying the garden displays--inside and out. On the way home, she decided that she would really like to go more often. A membership for Christmas would be a great gift!

And, so it is--already! On Christmas Day, CJ received a family membership to the gardens (plus two, for Grandma and Grandpa when they visit, or other guests). What we didn't know is that it came with four tickets to their annual "Gardenfest of Lights." Since we had plans after Christmas, we looked to early January for a late visit to the show. We were not disappointed!

Even though they look a bit nervous sitting on this butterfly....

R and I both had cameras that night. His pictures are much better, because he had a tripod and wasn't running. I had the camera looped around my hand, running after RJ2, who was pulling CJ by the arm to go fast everywhere! There was so much to see. I knew we would end up making a couple loops around things, just to try and catch a better view.

We started out in the Conservatory. This is the left arm of the beautiful glass domed structure.

That's a view of the right arm stretching straight toward the camera--across the pond.

Inside, there were all kinds of light strings. Not what you'd find on your indoor Christmas tree or outside bush. The pink flowers that this butterfly is sitting on were actually all lights on branches. (Take note, Grandma!) There was a stunning tree where the gardens would usually feature tropical plants and trees. A wall full of lighted snow (see at top of post) came down over a very cool train display, with some very rapidly moving cars! (I'm sure if I try to post that video of RJ2 and the train that Blogger will be mad at me. Another time....)

How about this lighted Christmas ball?

This is the "LOVE" sign. I think it's sponsored by the Virginia Board of Tourism. The idea was to stand in the letters and take a picture of your family to post on Facebook. We didn't think that was feasible, so we hung out in the pavilions that you see in the background.


A hummingbird, checking out some flowers, and a frog whose extended tongue has just caught a fly. The lights on the tongue go out and come back on--so fun!

Just a gorgeous peacock!

A multi-colored dragon fly, and a girl on a swing, who looks very familiar....

The children's area has been expanded in recent years to include a tree house with many ramps and a small fountain park for kids to run through and cool off in the summer. The gardens has a big emphasis on education and garden activities for kids. No surprise that they had a garden planted and growing in January!

Cool watermelon!

Enjoying a rest in the tree house rockers....

How about these lighted stars, Grandpa?

Fun to see these two photos back to back. The stick sculpture palace that was created by a visiting artist was dressed with some a special gelled light that made its branches sparkle!

There was a campfire going that night, and someone was heating up marshmallows for s'mores. It was more for effect the night we went, since it was pretty unseasonably warm. So has been the season here in Central VA!

So much to see. Hold tight; here we go.......!!!!


Time for ring around the rosie!

 And I really should stop and chat with these kids!

C'mon, RJ2, let's run through the maze. AAAAAAaaaaa.....!!!!

We may not have seen everything, but we sure saw a lot. And even though the lights will be down by the next time we go back. I think we see just a few crocuses! Until next time....

 *          *          *

And CJ provides the postscript, with "Gardenfest of Lights" Mash Up! (Or, I'm ready for Photoshop....)