Little Hallelujahs

Published in The Ferndale Record, December 22, 2010

Last weekend I participated in the Garfield High School Symphony Orchestra’s “Messiah Sing-Along” at Seattle First Baptist Church.  Some of my children make this event a holiday tradition and although each year I want to go and usually don’t, this time I decided to make it happen.

When hard rain falls in life, you realize what’s important, and this year I needed to sing praises for what I’ve got rather than kvetch about what I think I need.

I walked into the church and saw my two boys seated there. They weren’t facing me, but I knew it was them in that way mothers do, by their hair and the back of their necks—one wearing a burgundy shirt, and the other a creamy yellow one. My daughter-in-law and a close family friend were there too, and I took my place beside them.

Although the sing-along audience was mostly amateur, we sounded pretty good, and the orchestra of teenagers was astonishingly perfect. Singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” (which we got to do twice) always reminds me of the year in high school choir when I sang the tenor line of that song. The part still comes rushing back into memory, and I sing it out like I really know what I’m doing, even though I don’t.

It didn’t matter, though. Nobody was there to judge, just sing.

Times with my children are often too short and this was one of them. I drove home in a downpour that night to spend time with my teenager and as a bonus, got to see Paul McCartney perform on Saturday Night Live. It was a sweet day.

After a particularly trying week, I decided one night to eat precisely what I wanted for dinner—roasted tomato bisque soup with chunks of sharp cheddar cheese, homemade garlic bread, and Dr. Pepper. I noshed slowly, purposefully, gratefully, and was nourished physically and emotionally.

That night I chatted on the phone with my best friend who’s in a California hospital. Her health isn’t good, but her humor has never been better. We laughed like we hadn’t in many months. I felt comforted knowing despite her serious situation, she’s on the planet.

Later that night I watched “The A-Team,” the TV show from the 80s.  Cheesy and impossible, yes. But it entertained me then and still does now. There was an odd satisfaction in allowing that time to revel in something silly.

I read something not long ago about “Messiah” composer, George Frideric Handel. After spending three weeks in 1741 working on this final masterpiece he said, “God has visited me.”

I believe him.

I haven’t composed sacred music that will be celebrated centuries from now, but I’ve seen and felt the scruff of my boy’s necks. I’ve remembered and heard familiar melodies both ancient and new, and savored the deep chuckle of a good friend.

I’ve eaten food that couldn’t have been better for the moment, and indulged in amusement that for whatever reason still makes me smile. In my darkness I’ve been helped by those seen and unseen.

I don’t have to be anyone famous or great to understand just a portion of what Mr. Handel was talking about.

In the simple details of an unextraordinary life, God has visited me, too.


















My Life At The Moment

Published in The Ferndale Record, December 8, 2010

People talk a lot about living in the moment, but I don’t know many who do. Most of us fantasize about a life we don’t have and how to get it.

Writer Anne Lamott expressed this tendency expertly when she wrote, “If we’re not careful, we’ll spend our whole lives blowing on sparks and trying to turn them into embers, when all along they were sparks that should never have been ignited. In that capacity I’ve looked like Neptune, cheeks filled with wind, blowing on the sea.”

I can relate and I’ll bet other readers do, too.

A thirty-something woman I know has spent months trying to create a new reality for herself. Not that her life is bad, she just wants something different, and she wanted it yesterday. Her efforts to reinvent her situation have been mammoth, her determination unwavering. Still, it remains the same. Then, she told me she’d made a decision.

Without relinquishing her dreams or giving up all hope, she said, “This is how my life is right now. I’ve decided to accept it.”

Wow. This was a powerful thought. I didn’t sense resignation or defeat, but courage to accept the way things are, even if they aren’t precisely what she wants at the moment.

Instead of wishing away days, hours and minutes on thinner bodies, fatter bank accounts, better health, another circumstance, a more comfortable fitting job, a different partner (any of which are not necessarily evil), deciding to go with what we’ve got creates time, energy, possibility, and ironically, often precedes getting exactly what we originally thought we wanted.

It’s usually then we discover that life as we know it isn’t so bad after all.

I’m all for striking out into unnavigated terrain, dreaming in Imax, and inhabiting a personal wonderland. But for whatever reason, most of us have to work awfully hard to get there, and the rest stops can take years. That’s where seeing what’s smack in front of us becomes magic. It informs and blesses us into greater things—when it’s time. The way stations are mandatory for most of us. Have you ever known anyone who got what they wanted, when they wanted it, and always do—every time? reported that Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, who just succumbed to the cancer she fought hard to keep at bay, recently wrote on her Facebook page:

“The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And, yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.”

Living with hope, making positive impact and meaningful days—despite the situation. Any of us can do that. My thirty-something friend and Elizabeth Edwards are a couple of smart cookies.

My mandate is clear: Not dragging along, bemoaning fate and thinking this is how things are, always have been and will be forever, but embracing what is, and recognizing that the messy, unexpected life I occupy has value and some happy surprises along the route.

This is how my life is right now—and rather than waiting around for something different, I intend to zazz it up.