Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Today, my eldest son, Gabe, turned 27.

It has been an eventful year for Gabe.  Just a little more than a year ago, he became a homeowner (bought a fixer-upper down the street from our house).  Little did he know then that in a year’s time, his little house would become “home” for his little family.  On New Year’s Day of this year, he married Rachel and to that marriage and to our family, she brought Ethan, a little four-year-old snips-and-snails-and-puppy-dog’s-tails of a boy who calls me “Gramma Amy”.  Oh, and somewhere in all that, Gabe switched from almost five years of employment in the airline industry to working for a company that makes medical implants and prosthetic devices.

What do I celebrate on the anniversary of the birth of my first-born?  I think the thing I celebrate most is that the boy has become a man.

Gabe is a red-head.  I never put much credence in the “red head, hot head” stereotype, but I have to admit that emotions always came quick and hard from the boy.  Because, I believe, we are probably more alike in some ways than either of us would like to admit, there were plenty of sparks between us in Gabe’s growing up years.  (Looking back, I know now that I could have doused a number of those flare-ups with the foam of kindness and a gentle word.  I have acknowledged this to Gabe in the intervening years, and, thankfully, he is a very forgiving son.) The man is another matter.  One of the things I love seeing in Gabe these days is the gentleness and patience with which he treats those he loves.  He’s patient with the old folks, with his siblings, his nieces, his wife, and especially with the little boy he’s taken into his heart in his role as “daddy”.  (Ethan calls Gabe by his given name, for that is how he first knew him, but, yesterday, when he was sick with a bad cold, his tearful wish for “Gabe” to be home from work so he could be with him told me that “Daddy” can go by a first name just as well.)

I mentioned the fixer-upper house.  Even though it was a stressor and even though it took many helping hands to get the place ready to bring a bride and a little boy home to, Gabe launched in to really do some very nice fixing of the place.  He had the great good fortune–blessing–of having a job as a teen-ager and college student working for a friend who mentored him in all kinds of handy-man skills.  By trusting him to work along side at first and, eventually, some on his own, the man helped equip Gabe with the confidence that he can fix and repair and remodel things.  With his handy dandy, do-it-yourself book to guide him, he took on tile installation, ceramic tile installation, and a lot of other projects that I probably don’t even know about.  He’s not afraid to try and he has this great desire to make the house a place that can become a home.

A man is wired to protect and shelter.  There is no where this ties in more closely than in the realm of spiritual nurturing.  When Gabe first became serious about Rachel, one thing I’ll always remember is his out-loud musings about and recognition of the huge responsibility that would mean spiritually.  It takes a man to humbly recognize that that is a God-sized task that cannot be done on one’s own.

In spite of the things I see these days that make me smile at the man my son has become, one thing hasn’t changed from the little boy days and that, too, makes me smile.  This boy-grown-to-man still loves to have fun.  (We always teased him that his middle name should have been “Fun”.)  That bent is a wonderful asset in the family life Gabe has chosen.  I love to hear him and Rachel laugh together.  I love to see him delight in Ethan’s delight over something fun they plan to do together.

We wondered for what God had gifted the little boy.  The answers are unfolding more and more everyday as we see the boy morphing into the man.

Happy Birthday, My Son.  This mom is awfully proud of you–proud of the man you’ve become.


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The Line

Today I had conversations with students who’ve been “pink slipped” in my classes.  No, they weren’t fired (their pink slips clearly stated that).  But, with a bright pink note clipped to graded, returned assignments, they were reminded that they’d used up their two excused tardies for the semester and of the implications of that.  In the classes I teach, if you are late, your work is late.  I don’t accept late work.  However, recognizing that life happens and valuing grace, each student is allowed up to two excused tardies in the semester–no questions asked, homework accepted as usual.  Needing to come up with a way to remind students when they’ve used up their excused tardies, I’ve moved to the “pink slip” practice this semester.  So far, it seems to be working.  It always gets some kind of response, usually that being, “I’ll be here on time from now on,” with students generally making good on their commitments.

In today’s conversations, though, one comment stands out.  A student was genuinely shocked that I would count him late on a date that he was, as he put it, “only a minute late.”  (Granted, there was snow on the ground that day, but on snowy days, one must allow a little extra time.) I’ve been pondering our verbal exchange today.  If one minute late is not late, at what point after the 9:30 hour when class is supposed to start does one become truly late?

This has led me this evening to think about other lines.  And I wonder how often I have the same attitude about them.

“I’m only a little bit ______________________.”  (Fill in the negative attitude or action that is on the list of that which displeases the One who gives me breath.)

“I’ve only neglected ________________________ for a little while.” (Fill in the personal discipline or service to another that I’ve let slip.)

“________________________ was only a little bit excessive.”  (Fill in the poor response to another or the overindulgence in a number of areas of life that is not exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit known as gentleness or patience or kindness or goodness or self-control.)

Missing the mark is less like a target–when one misses the bullseye there are still other circles of points to gain–and more like a clay duck; either you hit it or you don’t.

I need to pay attention to being on the mark–every time–in this life of mine.  Failure to do so may result in it being too late to count.


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Stirring Words

Something must be waking up inside of me.  I have actually felt like blogging a few times in recent weeks, after a long, long absence from this place.

Tonight I have an image of stirring in my head–of literal stirring.  Last week I made dozens and dozens of cut out cookies for Gabe and Rachel’s wedding–two connected hearts, frosted, decorated, and topped off with “G” and “R” monograms.

There was lots of stirring that went into those cookies.  First, blend the Crisco and the powdered sugar.  They come together quite easily when I use my big wooden spoon.  Then, the hard part:  stirring in the eggs and vanilla.  For awhile, it seems that I am just swishing the shortening/sugar mixture around in a sea of beaten egg.  Then, slowly, little by little, transformation comes as the eggs lose their separateness and become one with the already combined ingredients. Eventually, add some dry ingredients, and all those little bits become one good thing to share, embellished with some frosting and a few sprinkles.

The writing process is like that sometimes.  Blending words, some coming together more smoothly, more easily than others.  Finally, there is that point that the blending of the parts creates a single whole, creating one good thing to share, embellished with some frosting and a few sprinkles.

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Changing My Signature

I got the idea from my friend Jon.  Quite some time ago I added to my email signature “I write at https://amyvanhuisen.wordpress.com”  I’ve had several people tell me they’ve read some of my posts, after seeing that tagline on emails I’d sent them.

People who follow that trail these days are probably disappointed.

I do write there–but only occasionally.

What I have written of late hasn’t been very well-crafted.

I’m not sure I even “qualify” as a blogger any longer.

So, maybe it’s time to change my signature….at least that part of it.

I am still, however, “Amy VanHuisen”–even if I’m not writing my life in my blog.  That part of the signature stays.

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If you want to spend eight worthwhile minutes today when you take a break from baking those pumpkin pies or changing the sheets on the guest bed so Aunt Tillie will have a place to sleep when she comes for this Thanksgiving weekend, why not spend it listening to Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia?

I heard that tone poem on the radio as I returned home from taking Zach to “See You at the Pole Extended” (a group of kids that decided, after this year’s See You at the Pole prayer event in September, to meet every Wednesday morning for prayer–pretty cool, eh?) this morning around 7AM.  The music, which came to symbolize the Finnish national spirit, is said to have been written at least in part to protest the Russian oppression of the press in Finland at the time of the writing.

If you’ve spent very much time in a church in your life, you will recognize part of the melody as that to which we sing the hymn “Be Still My Soul”.  Also, “We Rest on Thee, Our Shield and Our Defender” is very appropriately set to Sibelius’ music.  But, the part of the composition to which we match those words is only part of the story.

The work begins with a growl.  We can hear the deep brass rumble of oppression, imagine the emotions roiling within the hearts of the composer’s countrymen as they find themselves increasingly under the heel of Russia.  But, gradually, into the growl is interjected a determination.  I can picture those people rising, one by one, stepping forward and locking arms to face the foe in solidarity with their neighbors who are suffering the same push, push, push to a place in which their spirits cannot bear to live.

The music moves us forward as we sense victory against the foe.  The musical climax of that part of the work ushers in the clear yet unquestionably strong woodwind and string tones of a prayer, what we recognize when we hear the title Finlandia.  The piece wraps up with sure shouts of celebration that don’t forget gratitude as the final few notes include a couple of notes we would clearly recognize as an “amen”.

I couldn’t help but think, as I sat listening to my “driveway music” (and Michael was probably wondering what was taking me so long to come into the house from the car), about Psalm 73.  Good old Asaph starts out by declaring God’s goodness to those who are pure in heart, but quickly moves into a bemoaning of the prosperity of the wicked.  One can almost literally hear the crescendo in his voice as he contrasts their “fate” with his, feeling that “in vain have I kept my heart pure” and that the only result of that has been daily punishment from a God who is unaware of what is going on.

Then–the part of this Psalm I love and can SO relate to:  “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me”–I always see this next word in all caps–“TILL I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood…”  Isn’t that just the way it is?  Or could be, if we would make that same turn in the midst of our ravings about all of life’s injustices and oppressions and negatives we didn’t ask for but got anyway because we live in a world where sin is a reality?

If you take the eight minutes to listen to Sibelius’ parallels to Asaph’s longings expressed, I wonder if there is any way to read Psalm 73 concurrently and make it come out just right with the right music for the right expression of heart?  I do know that the ends will match perfectly–Sibelius’ firm “Amen” with Asaph’s “But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.”

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A Little Bit Every Day

I have been woefully lean on words this fall.

Oh, it’s not that I don’t speak them.  In fact, that may be the problem.  Is it possible to be all “spoken out”?

Possible or not, I think I need to write a little bit every day.

So, tonight I will list things I saw today that I’ve never seen before:

  • The eyes of a student looking like a real person with a real life–instead of surly and put out–when he was telling me about his car not working and about how he was able to fix it
  • The workout room in the Student Life Center at Ivy Tech’s North Campus (I wasn’t in it–but Ellen and I were working out in our own way by speedily walking the halls of the building after we finished our Tuesday lunch together, and we walked past it…again…and again…and…)
  • Someone’s green (should it have been any other color?) Ivy Tech water bottle on the table in the staff workroom
  • An episode of “The Office”
  • A student who always looks deadly serious cracked a joke in class and laughed…and made me laugh
  • A grilled cheese sandwich that I prepared that didn’t even come close to burning
  • An appeal letter for financial support specifically for the Weekday Religious Education program in which I used to teach
  • A colleague’s new haircut
  • Me wearing a new pink sweater
  • A schedule for my job for next semester–same classes, different days
  • A Facebook birth announcement from particular friends who have a new grandson–congrats, Jeff and Nancy!

That’s enough…the clock says 10:40 PM and the teenager son says, “Can you and dad be done with showers in the bathroom by 5:45 in the morning so we (said son and house guest friend Josiah) can be up and at school by 7AM for prayer at the pole?”  That’s an offer I can’t refuse, so…Good night!

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Without Pen in Hand

I spoke with a fellow blogger recently and we agreed that busyness is bad news for blogging.  Brain juices required for writing dry up, not to mention the minutes that it takes to sit down at the keyboard and put thoughts on the blank screen.

I have a new job–teaching 4 classes/3 class sessions (one class is a combo class) at the local community college each week–and it is taking a lot of my time (time I do not begrudge; I love this new adventure!).  I am hopeful that, as time passes, I will become more efficient in my prep and will reach the ideal that my boss (who was my friend long before she was my boss–I think she will remain my friend!) uses as her rule of thumb–two hours of prep for every hour in the classroom.

So, days pass between posts.  But not so much time passes between significant, blog-worthy happenings.  The ups and downs of the first days back to school for the teenager who is a junior in high school (WHEN did THAT happen?!?).  The ups and downs, ins and outs,  of the husband’s job hunt and wonderings about what comes next.  The giggles and only occasional tears of the almost two-year-old (Is it possible?!?) granddaughter (and, yes, she may present her parents with “terrible two” syndrome at some point–she is, after all, maturing and, according to some developmental theorists, all maturation requires those cycles of equilibrium and disequilibrium.  Personally, I think that’s true–it’s just that some get farther off-kilter  in the disequilibrium cycles than others…more “terrible”, if you will.)

Then there are the always-interesting students in the new job–some finding their ways through American college culture and the English language while their roots run deep in their home cultures of Burma or Darfur; others having missed many little cogs in the wheels that turn automatically for their peers who may achieve higher than they academically, but who do not lack motivation to make something of themselves so they can contribute something to this great life.

There is the subtle shift from summer to fall that will within weeks burst out in a blaze of colors that will make the morning drive with the sun coming up a trip through God’s seasonal art gallery.  There are slowly ripening cherry tomatoes, some not ever making it to the kitchen but, instead, providing a burst of summer sun to my taste buds on the short walk from garden patch to side door.

There is the anticipation of children awaking to new possibilities as they try their hands and hearts at telling stories through drama (I’m helping with a Young Playwrights Workshop this weekend…I stand to learn as much as the K-2nd graders!) or gearing up to be champion Bible quizzers “walking with Jesus” through the Bible book of Luke.

There are the books and the songs.  The 19th Wife had my attention the last few weeks as I read it in preparation for my book club’s discussion of it this Second Sunday.  A fascinating–sometimes sad, sometimes disgusting– look, through fiction, at polygamy in the earlier days of the Mormon Church.  Every week’s Worship Celebration recently has planted a different song that bursts out in the shower, while writing student assignments on the white board, while putting the dishes back in the cupboard from their drying place in the drainer.

There are those random thoughts or observations that are followed immediately by the automatic-now-after-close-to-five-years-as-a-blogger thought, “I should write a post about that”.  Those are the thoughts I most miss putting into words here–blogging, if it is nothing else, has the potential to make the ordinary seem extraordinary, to write on the sticky note that says “Take notice, Dear Reader” about that which would otherwise go unnoticed, to underline life’s moments….life’s significant moments.

But without pen in hand–or computer keyboard at the fingertips–those moments go unrecorded.  However, they are not lost.  Inasmuch as I savor and embrace and process all of the above until they gently but firmly tie into the warp and woof of the weaving of who I am, they are kept; perhaps not shared, but preserved in a place inside of me, from where they just might reappear in another post, another day.

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