Thanks for the Children

jesus_with_children4I picked my daughter up from school last week. As she got into her booster seat in the car she said, “I had a GREAT day!” When asked why, she said, “I had a cupcake today!”

I made a big deal out of it, “WHAT? A cupcake? How did that happen?” That child then did something that just got me. She giggled. It was that unbelievably dear sound moms sometimes hear, like music bubbling up. “It was a teacher’s birthday. There was chocolate frosting.” The simplest thing in the world made her so happy.

I have to give thanks to God today for children. At times they can be exhausting, and they are work intensive, but their innocence and delight in the smallest things makes life bearable to me. That music of Emmy’s laugh reminded me of the Lord Jesus with the children on his lap, the ones his disciples tried to shoo away from him. He took them in his arms instead and blessed them. I think he probably heard a giggle. The cultures that are aborting children by the millions are aborting away all of that music, all of that hope and all of that God-given life. How evil. How foolish.

“He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” ~ Matthew 18:2-6

Flying in Spring

robin“I’m a cardinal today,” says Emily, folding her small arms into pretend wings and hopping down the sidewalk.  At the corner she proffers her “wing” for me to hold as we cross.

“Let’s fly, Mama,” she says as we reach the other side.

We fly along the street for a while, and  in her imagination we are flying high overhead all of the trees and houses, looking down on the neighborhood from our vantage point.

“Were you a mermaid when you were little, Mama?” The questions she asks never cease to amuse, like the question about whether actual monkeys are used in the making of monkey bread.

“No, Emmy, I was never a mermaid.” I try for a moment to figure out where that question came from and remember Tom sketching a scene for her the other night. “I want some mermaids on the rocks, please.” Her daddy draws great pictures, and he complied.

She is skipping now in front of me, her legs getting longer and longer as kindergarten approaches in August. Overnight she is this amazingly articulate child, bursting with ideas and questions. She likes words, and I use as many evocative ones with her as possible in conversation. She will ask, “What does that mean?” I tell her. If a child uses a word a few times, they own the word in their vocabulary treasure chest. They learn what they hear.

She is sad that the robins on the grass all fly away. She’s determined she will hold one in her hands and speculates that they must be very light and soft. I tell her that they are only for watching, not holding, and she’s disappointed.

Later she makes sand pies at her sand table on the porch and talks to herself. I wonder what she’s thinking about as she shapes the sand into all kinds of delicacies. She loves helping me and loads dishes into the dishwasher, folds laundry and sets the table, all the while keeping up a stream of conversation. All of her stuffed animals are “she”, even her stuffed rooster from the farm set. I explain that roosters are daddy chickens. “Well, this one is a lady rooster,” she says firmly. Stumped at that, I decide to play along, but continually forget and refer to the rooster as “he.” I am corrected promptly.

A friend sent her the entire treasury of Beatrix Potter on CD. She can say whole stories from there by heart, spoken with a slight British accent like the story reader. It reminds me of when William at age 3, having overheard his older brother reciting some soliloquies from Shakespeare, surprised me at lunch one day by brandishing a fish stick from his plate and shouting, “Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition! By that sin fell the angels!”

Children are so interesting. Individuals that perpetually cause surprise (and shock at times!)

Emmy wants to start on violin. She has handled Will’s small fiddle and wants to play it. I think we may start with piano, however, and go from there. Sometimes children really do know what they want and the exciting part is helping them find out who they are and what they love. When they do find their passion, we often can only step back and coach and cheer them on as they grow into the people God intended them to be.

Emmy’s daddy just came home this Saturday afternoon. I can hear her in deep conversation. Any moment now, I will hear Tom laugh. It happens every time. The Emmy Effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Joyful Afternoon

Saturday afternoon was our son Will’s graduation recital on piano and pipe organ at St. Joseph Chapel in Milwaukee. It was a gorgeous spring afternoon, a rare one, with temperatures near seventy and with skies that were deep blue.

Willrecital6Will wasn’t expecting many to turn out for his recital, especially on a day like that. We thought that only some family and a few of Will’s friends might be there. We were  surprised and pleased at the group that came out, including several of Will’s organist friends in the area, the headmaster of his school, his headmaster’s wife, a two teachers from his school and school friends. Also, driving all the way from Madison was a blogger friend of mine with his wife and girls, and a pastor’s wife whose husband is now in Illinois. Will’s Aunt Lisa and cousins, Rachel and Anna also attended. The trouble they took to come out and hear our son really touched our hearts!

We are so thankful for Shanti Daya and Sister Mary Jane Wagner who have been exactly the right teachers for Will at this time in his life. God has provided for Will’s needs in so many ways in his music training.

Sitting and listening to the music, some of which  had never heard before by me as he practices in the basement and at other churches (where did that one come from?!), was almost a surreal experience. Who is this young man? Wasn’t he just a little boy playing with his Thomas the Tank Engine trains and running the neighborhood with his Super Soaker?

Now he’s grown up, turning 18 in a few days. It all goes by so quickly. I was comforted, however, by Will’s little sister next to us in the pew at the concert. We still have a young one around for a while yet and all the challenges of education and music training ahead. She will probably start with piano lessons in the next year. I’m not sure I can handle the parent-intensive, twice a week Suzuki violin classes again. But if she shows a proclivity, after a couple years of piano, we will certainly give her that chance, Lord willing.

Will played a quiet meditation on organ at the recital. That was after the very full-blast Bach. When a pipe organ’s sound changes from thunder to a low purr underneath with a quiet melody on top, it moves me to reflection, Tom and I reflected a great deal on 18 years with our son. He is off to Wheaton College Conservatory in August. I can’t say enough about the help of those at Wheaton that has made this possible. Best of all, he will be close enough to see us occasionally, if he can fit us into his schedule! We will all look forward to that immensely.

To those reading this who were able to come out to the recital, thank you for showing love to Will. We are grateful. Here are a few photos from Saturday afternoon.

Will with the Headmaster of Trinity Academy, Dr. Robin Mitchell.

Will with the Headmaster of Trinity Academy, Dr. Robin Mitchell.

 

 

Will with his piano teacher, Shanti Daya on the left, and his organ teacher, Sister Mary Jane Wagner on the right.

Will with his piano teacher, Shanti Daya on the left, and his organ teacher, Sister Mary Jane Wagner on the right.

 

Will with some of his musical friends who came out to hear him.

Will with some of his musical friends who came out to hear him.

Emmy gets ready to go in to hear her big brother.

Emmy gets ready to go in to hear her big brother.

 

Emmy with Cousin Rachel

Emmy with Cousin Rachel

 

The beautiful St. Joseph Chapel.

The beautiful St. Joseph Chapel.

Love Notes

loveI know the world and our nation and what calls itself “Christianity” are all in bad shape. I get that. Believe me. But that’s why appreciating the good things is so important. That’s a common theme here at the Hope Blog.

Little moments make up our lives. Lots of them. Some are tragic, some are filled with grief or anger or sadness, but the ones I want to write about are filled with the best life has to offer.

One such moment happened two nights ago. In a rare evening of free time, my husband crashed on the couch, feet up, just relaxing. He was wearing my favorite fleece shirt, because up here in Wisconsin, it’s still chilly. Emmy calls it his “huggy” shirt. That’s exactly what it is. Seeing him, I could not resist joining him, and then Emmy did.

“I want to share Daddy, too,” she said.

“Nope, He’s all mine right now,” I teasingly said.

“Mama, we need to get a Double Daddy then. Because I want to have him, too!”

Yes, we need a Double Daddy in this house, or even a Triple Daddy, as Will wants a piece of him when he gets home as well. In that little moment of family life on the couch, it was a reminder of what matters most to me.

Last night it was raining out and around dinner time, Emmy came running. “Daddy’s home! Come quick!”

So we went downstairs and at Em’s suggestion, we hid behind the door to “surprise” him. (He always expects something is coming when he gets home.)

Tom entered, tired and wet with the rain on his jacket and hair, after a day of working to provide for us. He set down his bag and Em grabbed his legs in an enthusiastic embrace. I gave my dear man a hug for a mutual recharging of batteries. Over dinner, in our small and cozy kitchen, we all heard about each others day. Just another fleeting and precious moment in our lives.

This afternoon the phone rang. It was Will calling from school. I thought something was wrong.

“I need to talk to Emmy,” said my high school senior.

“Why?”

“Oh, I just had some time and wanted to say hi to her.”

His four-year-old sister put him on speaker phone and a very cute conversation followed. A call from her big brother, just because. Because he loves her and she loves him. (And he knows he is leaving for college in August.)

Flowers are nice, roses are grand on special occasions, but the best of life and love is in those brief moments when heart touches heart, and the why of all the work we do in our families comes into sharper focus. Scattering those love notes throughout our days is what makes life sweet. Living it in front of our children gives them a template for their own love notes, both now and in their own homes someday.

We can change the world best by loving our families first. Without that, it’s all just noise.

 

 

 

A Little Angel Brings Sunshine

Doctors told the parents of this little girl five times that they should abort her. Fortunately, her parents didn’t see her disabilities as a reason to take her life. Now, despite her difficulties, she brings sunshine into the lives of others. Listen to her sing “You Are My Sunshine” and let her bless you today.

All children are precious gifts. Here’s the story from LifeNews.com and the video.

 

A Little Thunder From Vierne

Will is preparing for three organ auditions at three different schools in the next few weeks. He wrote some things for recently for school about why organ was such a passion in his life, and I thought I would share it.

stroberts1I began piano and violin lessons at age five, percussion when I was twelve, and finally organ before my freshman year of high school. I have spent hours daily practicing one instrument or another for almost 10 years now. I didn’t particularly enjoy the piano, violin or percussion, but when I began playing the organ, I was instantly hooked. In fact, I was so enthralled with it that I quit both violin and percussion soon after, so I could give more time to my new favorite instrument. 3 ½ years later, my passion for the organ has only grown.
 
Thanks to my background in piano, the learning curve into the organ was not difficult. My teacher, Sister Mary Jane Wagner, is an excellent organist who studied in Europe with some of the world’s greatest organ names, including Flor Peeters and Jean Langlais. In my early days of playing, she provided me a solid technical foundation by demanding excellence in rhythm, articulation, and musical details. She never allowed sloppiness or shortcuts in fingering or pedaling—her attention to detail allowed me to progress very quickly into more difficult repertoire, and instilled in me a clean, exciting style of playing.
 
After only a year of lessons, I was presented with my first performing opportunities. Sister Mary Jane had me play several pieces at a weekly concert in October 2011. This performance taught me many lessons about mental preparation for playing—I learned (the hard way) that forgetting to change from dress shoes to organ shoes can lead to trouble in playing the pedals. In January 2012, I also played a joint concert with Mr. John Weissrock at Gesu Parish—performing on the 115 rank Schantz organ, one of the finest in the Midwest. It was a truly memorable experience.
 
In January of 2012, Sister Mary Jane told me about a position at a local Lutheran Church—I played about 36 Sunday morning services there throughout 2012, experience that truly transformed my playing. Suddenly, I was forced to have new preludes, postludes, offering pieces, liturgy and hymns ready every week. I became adept at mastering pieces quickly, accompanying a congregation, and acting in a professional manner throughout that year of habitual performance.
 
In March of 2013, I participated in the American Guild of Organists’ RCYO Competition.willsenior14 It was my first experience playing in competition, and it was incredibly good for me. I had to make appropriate registrations for my pieces on an unfamiliar organ in a limited amount of time, and be ready to perform after only a few hours of preparation on that organ. Although I finished 3rd of the 3 contestants, I got high scores from the 3 judges in the competition, and great insights from all of them.
 
To me, there is nothing quite as exhilarating, satisfying, or profoundly communicative as playing the pipe organ. From the moment I first played an organ, I knew it was the instrument my soul most resonated with—that it reflected who I am better than anything else.”
 
~Will Schlueter
 
Here’s a little clip of Will at Gesu Parish this last week playing a movement of  Louis Vierne’s First Symphony, a piece he is playing for auditions. The clip is only three minutes, but it expresses the full power and excitement of the instrument Will loves!

Never Miss a Sunrise

Emily came running into my bedroom one morning yelling, “Mama, quick, come look!” She was so intense she scared me. I thought something was wrong outside.  She lifted my window shade and pointed. “Look at that!”

The rising sun had turned the eastern sky the most unbelievable color of peach against the faint blue. “Isn’t it GORGEOUS?” she cried.

I would have missed it entirely. How many times has that child pulled me over to the window to see the moon shining down on us in all its different phases, something I would have never noticed either. Thank God above for children who never miss a sunrise or a sunset and whose sense of wonder is still intact.

The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone. ~ George Eliot

 

sunrise

 

 

A Little Harpist

Notes from the Basement

I post a lot of music on here, because it is such a part of my life. Last night I realized how long it had been since I’d touched an organ. I play piano, but had not played the organ since I had a small one of my Grandma’s in my living room when the kids were much younger. I used to play hymns at night and found it very restful.

Last night, I sat down at Will’s digital Hauptwerk organ in the basement and decided to play a few hymns and songs. After enjoying myself thoroughly, I asked Will if he would give me lessons. He agreed good-naturedly with a grin. (It’s funny that roles are reversed as I used to help him when he began piano!)

It’s a very healing and joyful thing to make music of your own, no matter how humble. Taking music lessons as a child may not always produce a grand musician, but it can be a source of great personal enjoyment, and I think music in the home is a very lovely thing for children. Emmy sat on the bench next to me, amused that I was playing her “Bubba’s” organ. (Will’s nickname is “Bubba” to Em.) Then I asked if she would like to sing some of her Bible songs. She belted out her favorite, pleased to have my organ accompaniment.

Here is a lovely rendition of the first song I played on the organ in many years last night. The video features a harp and a voice singing the (Swedish) gospel song, Day by Day. The words are on the screen. I love it when they put up the words!

 

Children and Anxiety

BW portrait of sad crying little boy covers his face with handsEmmy let a helium balloon go by accident and for days, she has been concerned about it. “Will it be OK, Mama?” she asked me repeatedly. “Will the birds see it and bring it back to me?”

Each day she has asked about the balloon in various touching ways. “Does it miss me?” “Is it on the moon by now?”

It was a source of anxiety to her that her balloon friend had been lost somewhere up in the air.

I remember being a child and being anxious. I had a doll named Sally who got lost at a park in Indiana once. It was a real emotional crisis. A doll is a real baby in the mind of a little girl, and the fact that my baby was somewhere out there without me to watch over her was very upsetting.

Storms frighten Emmy a great deal. Storms terrified me as a girl also. I remember what it was like to be scared, and I do my best to provide comfort to my little daughter when she’s frightened.

Anxiety doesn’t always fade as you get older. As adults, we learn better how to deal with it, or in some cases, hide it, but it is a very real problem, particularly in this world where so much is going wrong. From experience, I can tell you that nobody will ever talk you out of being anxious.Ridicule makes it worse. The response of siblings to a brother or sister’s anxiety during childhood is important. Most kids know that if they have an inordinate fear of something, it can be embarrassing. Having someone point out your fear or mock it, or laugh at it, rather than support you, can be devastating. Nobody chooses to be afraid or anxious. Some children are more anxious than others, and it’s built into their personalities. Parents need to immediately stop any ridicule by siblings and point out how heartless it really is.

Parents need to be attune to anxious children, especially when there is more than one child in the family. Something that does not phase one child can be a terrible experience for another. Observant parents will see this and try to provide comfort and help to the anxious child.

Another thing that does not help is forcing a child to do something that frightens them. I remember coming close to being forced on to an indoor roller coaster ride at an amusement park once. The thought was terrifying. Only the intervention of an understanding person prevented what would have been a traumatic experience for me.

There is much about adult conversation that can create anxiety in children. I overheard a conversation once where the premature death of a man in his early 40′s had occurred. “People are dying in their 40′s more and more now,” said the adult. The words sank into my heart and as my own mom was in her early 40′s, those words terrified me. A little caution around children goes a long way. (And the apocalyptic headlines are another thing to avoid around children. We have no idea the impact of our conversational topics on small ears. They have no larger perspective to deal with these things like adults do.)

There’s obviously a time when anxious children need to be encouraged to try things and launch out. It’s a fine line sometimes between encouraging a child to do something and forcing an issue to their detriment. But if we don’t try to encourage our children to overcome anxiety, fear can become a jail cell. But only the child can come to the point of readiness to overcome fear. You can’t force it.

A steady offering of opportunities and positive talk goes a long way. Children who have anxiety problems need someone in their lives to say, “You can do it! I know you can. You let me know if you’d like to try it.” If they do succeed at something hard for them, it goes without saying that they should get a big high five!

Emily and I talked about what makes thunder so loud. She put her own spin on it and reassured her daddy the other night that the thunder was just “clouds bumping into each other.” We have a specific spot in the house (our “thunder chair”) where we go when it storms out. She literally trembles she gets so frightened. In her mind, that chair is a safe place where we can talk about comforting things while the storm rolls by overhead.

We all need a safe place in our minds. Adults know that terrible things do happen. But having someone to talk to and understand, without negative judgment, is what we all need sometimes. It’s a safe port in the storm of life.

Emily learned this song at preschool (as I did years ago in my Lutheran kindergarten), and she likes to sing it to herself. She learned all 3 stanzas. I once heard a military pilot recount singing this to himself as he flew combat missions. What a comfort to know this in our “age of anxiety.”

I am Jesus’ little lamb,
Ever glad at heart I am;
For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need, and well provides me,
Loves me every day the same,
Even calls me by my name.

Day by day, at home, away,
Jesus is my Staff and Stay.
When I hunger, Jesus feeds me,
Into pleasant pastures leads me;
When I thirst, He bids me go
Where the quiet waters flow.

Who so happy as I am,
Even now the Shepherd’s lamb?
And when my short life is ended,
By His angel host attended,
He shall fold me to His breast,
There within His arms to rest.