Saturday, March 31, 2007

Day By Day

Well, I did it again! Another meal made and shared. And now I'm making a pancake breakfast for some of my household and a visiting daughter and grandchildren.

In spite of musical rehearsals which demand much of my creative energy I am determined to keep things somewhat intact around here - at least until "production week" (the days preceding opening night are filled with nightly rehearsals and daily scrambles to get everything ready and in place!)

My cold really plagued me yesterday; my mind was a bit addled and my energy was a bit zapped (for instance, I forgot to turn off my lavalier mic when using the bathroom - needless to say, I returned to the stage to find a crew of kids in hysterics! We do get to know each other pretty well during this time...) But all in all, we had a great rehearsal. The kids are doing a wonderful job, exceeding my expectations. You'll be sure to want to come, if you are in the area! (High Button Shoes - Fri. and Sat. April 27&28, 7:30pm, CFC Auditorium)

Off to the griddle I go. Then I will bury myself in a script to finish up some choreography before today's l-o-n-g rehearsal begins (1:30 - 6:15pm). Have a good one!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The State of the Household

Colds, flus, viruses, congestion, aches, pains, and sneezing. Humidifiers, Tylenol, Ibuprophen. Which movie to watch. Did you drink enough?

These are the topics of conversation at my house this week with three of us trudging through some sort of sickness. My daughter across the road and her little guy have joined us in our trouble as well.

But we plug along. Rehearsals for the upcoming CFA spring musical must continue. Mom scratches out staging in the script between closing her eyes. Julia reviews her lines. Online research for props leads to many EBay purchases thus far. "Give a hand (or rather a foot) with this choreography idea - I need to see if it will work." Send out e-mails to line up an orchestra. Send out e-mails to deliver staging notes. Make calls and take calls to set up rehearsal times and places. Etc. Etc.

Last night I felt like the cat's meow! I felt total fulfillment in my role as nurturer and care-giver! I felt like I had finally arrived! I actually made a whole meal that we sat down and ate together! And the kitchen was thoroughly and properly cleaned up afterwards!! Score!!!

Now that's pretty bad...

Monday, March 26, 2007

God Is All

From a cafe terrace atop the mountain overlooking the charmingly quaint oldtown section of Salzburg we gazed down upon the narrow winding streets and the gigantic cathedral structures with their adjoining courtyards. This was most definitely not a picture of this day and age. I was momentarily transported in time.

As I looked I could see where Mozart was born. A glance across the river brought my eyes to the place where his family moved to a few years later when he was yet a young child. I imagined him running up and down the familiar streets, buying bread for mama, laughing with friends and siblings upon release from Sunday morning duties, listening to the cathedral bells. This would most certainly have been a curious, energetic, uninhibited, daring young man. Anyone who plays a recital for the Empress of Habsburg at the age of six and, upon finishing his pieces, runs to her lap and lavishes her with kisses, must be all of those things.

And here I was, walking the same streets, totally enamored with Salzburg. Yet I knew that Mozart left this town and his home never to return. His father begged him to come back, promising him security as a musician/composer in the court where he himself was employed. Mozart refused; Salzburg held no charm. He wanted more - more opportunity, more money, more fame, better musicians, better theaters. He wanted Vienna.

He gained some popularity there. His tunes were hummed everywhere. But he died a pauper. Security, money, and perfect opportunity had eluded him. His incredible talent was not enough. Sin and all its trappings overtook his life. Whether in Salzburg or Vienna, life without His Lordship just didn't work.

The fortress which housed our mountaintop cafe had revealed more layers of history. We spent the entire morning touring this wonderful citadel and the stories were more than I could contain. I saw enormous Medieval bedchambers - the kind I see whenever I watch a Medieval epic depicting royalty and their tragic lives. The huge rustic beams and cavernous rooms provided the perfect backdrop for the large heavy tapestries which hung on the walls. Real-life torture instruments were on display in a stone hall. These things really existed; pain, injury, and even death were actually administered through these very same tools which now stood before me. Wow.

And once again, a glimpse at another place and time drove home the point: life without His Lordship just didn't work.

On to the opulence of the Schonbrunn Palace in beautiful Vienna. I love beautiful things and I loved Schonbrunn Palace. Here we saw a glistening Cinderella-like ballroom, the long flight of steps by which she escaped at night, the expansive courtyard where her carriage was greeted by uniformed escorts, candelabras bigger and golder than possibly imagined - everything a young girl's imagination conjures when playing princess, and then some. But as we toured the rooms the hallways were lonely. Stories which accompanied the regal portraits were rarely pleasant. Oh, they had wealth and power and a destiny (rarely a pleasant one, not their God-given one) but they had depression and loneliness and sin and bondage as well. Here they were, having obtained that for which most of the world clamors, and yet there was blatant unhappiness. This was not a singular story but was a story borne out in every generation. Alcohol, misery, anger, murder and suicide were all represented here. Oh, how they needed Him. How they needed Truth. Life didn't work any better, even for royalty, without His Lordship.

We toured the Hofburg Imperial Palace and saw such over-the-top extravagance that even I was undone. Suddenly I understood Peasant Revolts. Americans have never seen this kind of opulence. We have not experienced hundreds of years of one dynasty and all the wealth they accumulate. It was amazing, to be sure.

Supper at the Sacher Cafe was such a delight. Here one partakes of Viennese hospitality and cuisine at its best. We all loved it. Edouard Sacher moved his father's bakery to this convenient location - the corner next to the Vienna State Opera House - and it has been a booming success ever since, hosting the after hour crowds, dignitaries (in the adjoining Hotel Sacher), and every tourist who wants to sample the world famous Sacher Torte (and that would be most every tourist in Vienna.)

On our way home we opted to skip the Autobahn and take a more back road route through the Austrian Alps. Breathtaking, to say the least. Small towns (always with a church spire marking the village center) and quaint farms dotted the landscape while colossal mountains hemmed them in at every turn. They were giants! I literally felt as though our car was a mere ant crawling at their feet. I have never felt so small. And God holds them, even them, in His hand.

In Munich, Germany we viewed Renaissance and Baroque art by such greats as Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, and Botticelli. Amazing talent. Yet there were often traces, at times bold, at times subtle, of human depravity, belying the brokenness of man apart from God.

The Nazi Concentration Camp at Dachau was unforgettable.

This trip was a wonderful sampling of history through the years. I stood in a church built in the 11th century (according to our guide - the linked site says it is older), ate in a restaurant housed in a courtyard referred to by Charlemagne in his journals, walked the halls of royalty, breathed air in the same room where Mozart played for the Empress at the age of six. I saw where people laughed and danced, grimaced with agony, reposed in dreams or suffered in sickness, and ate in splendor. As I examined just a bit of human history firsthand, it became clear that in every place, in every time, people have suffered without the truth of the Word. It is always relevant. He is always the answer.

We say we will learn from the past; we haven't. What was suffered in the 11th century is repeated in the 12th and 13th and is still suffered today. It may look more modern, but it is the same. Historians will conjecture as to the reasons why such things happen. They will find excuses, determine that if "this situation had been handled differently, this wouldn't have happened." Poppycock. No matter what changes could have been made, save one, the arrogant Catholic authorities would have been hungry for more power, Mozart would have died with unfulfilled longing, and Empress Sissi would have been dissatisfied with life. One change was needed - that need was salvation.

He alone is timeless and His truth endures forever. I am so thankful. And I am so sobered.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Reflections While Flying Home

Dachau
WWII Concentration Camp
1933-1945

An iron gate looms ahead, heavy with words of burden, not hope -

ARBEIT MACHT FREI

- which translated means "work brings freedom" - a strange foretelling of an endless nightmare.

I step somewhat carefully through this infamous entranceway, piqued by the recollection that thousands - no - tens of thousands had entered before me, not willingly.

I continue on. My step slows, then halts; my soul is arrested; my very breath is involuntarily caught up, momentarily ceasing. Before me extends an expanse both immense and colorless and very recognizable: the open yard where roll call was taken. The absolute reality that such a place truly exists crowds in on my soul, and I am stunned.

Only shades of gray are seen - in the gravel crunching beneath a footstep nearby, then repeated in the solemn structures of weathered board and cement, and finally echoed in the sunless sky. But of course the sky is gray here in Dachau.

My eyes scan the area, seeking to comprehend the vastness of this space. I begin to see unending rows and columns, innumerable forms of human beings uniformed in equally colorless garb, shoulder to shoulder with barely space to move. Faces are gaunt with eyes void of light; there is no human soul. These are not human beings but empty shells not yet dead but no longer living. As my eyes begin to comprehend they instinctively fill with tears. The eerie silence echoes a lonely desperation. I can never fully understand the scene before me. I tread with somber silence and awe, somehow needing to show respect to these also silent vestiges.

My feet bring me to the head of a broad, long way continuing in gray Dachau gravel. On either side, in perfect symmetry, lying in perfect right angles to the path, are the terribly long, narrow foundations of barracks, two on each side, row upon row, each row on both sides being watched over by a tall, stately sentinel - a slender tree of great stature, reaching to the sky, attempting to lend an ethereal beauty to this forsaken landscape. It is not enough.

Walking the wide path I see once again the weak, hungry mass, this time shuffling, at times stumbling, as in trance-like state it finds its way back at the close of day. This is a hopeless, broken mass, a non-thinking, non-feeling machine, devoid of all traces of humanity. Each man has become a number, a part of this machine to be dispensed of when no longer functional - countless parts, waiting and wondering how long they will be of service here, hopeless of a way out.

Reaching the end of the broad way I turn left, following the backside of the final barrack. At the far side I am confronted by an invincible barrier. The well known barbed wire fence preceded by a deep, cement-rimmed ditch lines the perimeter of all I have seen. Beyond the fence lies a second cement-rimmed ditch, larger than the first and filled with running water. Ominous watchtowers regularly interrupt this otherwise endless line - towers with eyes trained to hunt human beings, focused morning, noon, and night, peering through sights, ready to administer quick punishment to those who would step near this forbidden line. Their presence is oppressive and constant.

I find another gateway in this impenetrable boundary, but this pathway is not to be sought after. I am now face to face with machinations of death contrived through a fiendish misuse of intelligence and creativity, scheming the efficient and systematic annihilation of humankind. Rooms like hollowed out cement blocks fitted with pipes and vents stand vacant, their deadly purpose never fulfilled here at Dachau. Two more cement chambers, once filled with human corpses waiting for incineration, also stand vacant, their walls hosting photos testifying of their heinous past. Between them is found a larger room. Four large brick ovens with mouths wide open present themselves for examination, unable to show shame. But it is felt by all.

Steps are now retraced. Taking it all in once more, I slowly close the imposing wrought-iron gate behind me, not quite wanting to leave, feeling a desperate need to memorize these impressions.

I can't imagine. I won't imagine. But I will remember.

Psalm 139:7-12
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me," Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

He was there, even then.

Monday, March 19, 2007

So Far

Salzburg was charming, Sch├Ânbrun Palace oppulent, St. Rupert's church (c.1000AD) awesome - in the truest meaning of that abused word - and I have loved this trip. It would be too much to summarize so many experiences here and now. Perhaps when I am not confounded by this German keyboard I will feel less daunted.

But in summary: WOW!

A quick thought: I love the German language. This is one I could earnestly study. Maybe someday, should the Lord allow.

Tomorrow we head to M├╝nchen, more particularly to Dachau, a concentration camp used during Hitler's regime. Who can imagine? I have already been in tears as I listened to our Viennese hosts tell of their memories of the postwar occupation. (Have I mentioned before that Mennonite Your Way is fabulous? I absolutely love staying with local people. What better way to really experience a culture?)

At any rate, the sights are beyond description, the culture truly delightful, the language a joy to hear, and the impact of this much history is deep. I have been touched.

And I will be home Wednesday!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Leaving On a Jet Plane

We are about an hour from departure time. One lovely daughter, with youngest son in tow for the sake of company on the trip home, will drive us to the airport. Bags are nearly packed, bread and granola fill the cupboard, gifts are wrapped and stowed in luggage, maps are printed (hubby travels with every route well planned), and schedules are somewhat in tact. Whatever isn't crossed off the list was never meant to be or just plain isn't going to be (depending, perhaps, on your theological bent...)

We had a pleasant weekend visit from an "adopted" daughter with her two little girls. She lived with us several years ago and has been a part of us ever since. She is like a sister to my children and now Merrick has two more little girls to call him "Uncle Merrick"! It was wonderful to have her here. We didn't visit much, with all my packing and what not, but she was happy to be here joining in the hubbub of our household.

Yesterday following church we had a spontaneous Sinclair family dinner with 18 or more at the table. Sauce and pasta always work for such occasions - along with lots of laughter and fun conversation. And, of course, three little boys yielding light sabers staged scene 4 from Episode number three (or whatever it was...)

So now I will shower, throw the remaining clothes into a suitcase and pack a carry-on. Off for a European adventure and wondering just what God might do this time!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

On the Fly, Again

Today's "to do" list is pretty long right about now. I'm still under the covers as I write, and I'm wondering if I should even get up.

I must prepare for a flight to Germany on Monday. Hubby and I will be there for 10 days, during which we will celebrate our daughter's 19th birthday. So, presents must be wrapped and packed. I also want to bring a bit of Easter her way to be left for that special day (an effort to make it even more special!) Check. Check.

We will do a bit of touring: Salzburg and Vienna. Travel clothes and something nice for the Volksoper or Mozart Dinner Concert, should we attend either. (I can dream, can't I?) Tickets should be purchased today online. Check. Check.

E-mails confirming finalized travel dates for Salzburg and Vienna must be sent to our Mennonite Your Way hosts. Hostess gifts must be chosen and packed. Check. Check.

From Germany my husband flies to Spain to participate in a conference on homeschooling. Nice clothes needed. Check.

In my preparation for such trips I cannot forget the homefront.

Schedules for travel needs, such as music lessons in town, Friday School classes, and concerts must be organized. Check.

Bread and granola need to be made in large quantities. Menu ideas will be written out. Check. Check.

And, of course, there is the school musical which I am directing. We are just getting into the serious rehearsal stage and I must be sure to leave enough work behind to keep them not only busy, but progressing quickly. This will mean a rehearsal today and a meeting with two daughters who will do directing in my absence. Check. Check.

Now - there was something more. What was the first thing I needed to do? Oh, yeah! Laundry. Those nagging piles. Definitely a priority. I really don't want to pack a bunch of dirty clothes.

Check.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"The Big Ask"

I am now a mother of nine whose children are older; I am past my childbearing years. It is a done deal.

When people meet me and hear about my situation they tend to make an automatic assumption: this was easy for her.

Their minds conjecture these kinds of thoughts:

"Surely someone with that many kids must have grown up dreaming of one day caring for a houseful of children. It must have been her lifelong ambition. But it is not mine."

"She must have a lot of patience. And she must not mind messy rooms - kitchens with crumbs and open cupboard doors, bedrooms with socks on the floor and wrinkled blankets draped in crooked fashion across the bed. But I do."

"Her pregnancies must have been easy and her deliveries practically pain-free. But mine were not so simple; certainly they were not worth doing again."

"She must have only desired the simple things with no ambition for career, money, and success. But I want something more."

Last Sunday I heard a message about "the big ask". Basically, it went like this: God is not afraid to ask us to do big things because He will go with us to accomplish them. In fact, He will always present "the big ask" if we draw near to Him to hear His heart and learn of His plan. Why? and How?

God can ask us to raise a passel of children because He will be with us to do it! It isn't because we have always had that same big dream, or that it is pain-free, or that we recognize how perfectly equipped we are to perform said task. Nor is it because in our pea-sized brains we already understood what was truly great and important.

That person just meeting me was off a bit. I did not match any of those lovely but entirely imagined paradigms of that perfect lady conjured by my new acquaintance (sorry to disappoint...)

But I had discovered His heart through the Word which He gave to us.
Psalm 127:3
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Genesis 33:5
And he lifted his eyes and saw the women and children, and said, "Who are these with you?" So he said, "The children whom God has graciously given your servant."

Psalm 139:13

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb.


I saw His plan, heard "the big ask", and followed. And just as He promised, He came with me.

Has it been easy? No! Did I ever wonder what in the world I was doing? Yes! Have I ever doubted my capacity to complete the task? Yes!!

My faith has been tested time and again. The mind is a continual battle front for the enemy. I have been pressed to the point of being crushed. Fear and guilt have been great temptations.

But I have never been alone in this great adventure. He has carried me through the hard times, comforted me when there was pain, equipped me when I was lacking, and taught me when the way was unknown.

So when people look at me and wonder why my life looks like this, I have a simple response: I point them to Him. He asked "the big ask", I responded.

And He did the rest.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Mutual Season

We sat in my daughter's salon and compared notes - she has home-schooled her several daughters and the oldest is about to graduate from Patrick Henry College. Soon thereafter she will marry and move away.

We talked about how it was when they were all young and still at home - how easy and orderly things were, how packaged and planned, how satisfying and simple - reminiscing about those mother duck/duckling years (you know, mama duck and all the babes waddling along behind.)

"Do you have many meals together anymore?"
"No, not as many. There are so many schedule conflicts - we aren't all home at the same time very often."

"How do you handle the busy-ness? Do you feel bad about the lack of routine? I mean I used to have this hard and fast schedule, but not any more. Bedtime is hit or miss, stories now and then, chores less than routine."
"I battle the guilt of feeling like the younger ones are missing out. I remind myself that He blessed them with many siblings and placed them right where they should be in the lineup. The younger ones are not having the same experience as the older ones, no doubt, but I do believe that what they receive from siblings is great as well."

Discovering that what you're going through is not completely unique is helpful - I am not totally bonkers after all. Our eyes lit up with recognition as we each suggested another facet being experienced in this newly encountered season. This is mutual.

We encouraged one another with the realization that we were not alone in feeling a bit out of control in this particular season with all the running here and there, juggling the needs of adult children with those of our still dependent children, leaving one feeling stretched in many directions.

I am all about simplifying life, cutting back on those "extra-curricular" activities that our culture is prone to push. But at the same time, our older children are becoming adults, with individual ministries and giftings. They need to develop those gifts and practice those ministries. Voila! Life has just become necessarily more complex.

And I do mean necessarily. I believe it is my responsibility to train them, release them, encourage them, and guide them in expanding their influence for the Kingdom of God.

So, we continue growing. All of us. Even us "over the hillers". New seasons, fresh challenges, increasing knowledge of His ways, enlarged capacities for His grace.

So don't stop now - it ain't over yet! And, boy, am I glad He's in it with me to the end!

Nothing Much

I am posting with no plans of anything clever or insightful to share.

Just wanted to let you know that said daughters and I (see previous post) were not disappointed. Our time was wonderful!

More later. Far too busy for much right now. Sorry...