MEMORIES AS CLEAR AS A BELL

Young girl playing TrumpetBy Lisa Huddleston

An odd, old memory just jogged through my mind. I was sitting here on the couch wasting time and watching TV when a commercial showed a grade-school girl opening an instrument case to reveal a brand new clarinet.

Instantly I felt my 5th-grade excitement at getting my brand new, shiny brass cornet. I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to learn to play it. However, in my ignorance and enthusiasm, I picked it up by the mouthpiece, and the horn detached falling bell down on to the floor. I had only had it for a few days, but for the rest of my school career in band, there were crinkly dents circling the neck of that bell, and I was sad and a little ashamed every time I lifted it out of its metallic smelling case.

Many years later, I had the opportunity to play in a church orchestra, and my sweet husband surprised me with a new, unblemished silver trumpet. It was beautiful, and I was proud to hold its shiny smooth bell before me. No scars showing. No shame over my earlier mistakes. A clean slate.

Hmmm … truths to ponder. Mistakes are sometimes the results of our ignorance. I didn’t realize that I couldn’t hold that new cornet by the mouthpiece when I first received it. It took an accident to teach me a hard lesson–and I never lifted it up that way again. But by then the damage was done, and I had to live with the scars my mistake left behind.

Happily, another truth is also contained in this story. Second chances teach us grace. I felt very undeserving of that shiny silver trumpet. I hadn’t played in years. I wasn’t any good. I had dented my first instrument–I’d probably do it again. But no. I played that horn with joy, and it restored my love for the experience of making music. Grace. Second chances. And joy.

I could have rejected the chance. I could have told Chuck to return that trumpet, or I could have told the director I wasn’t good enough to play. After all, that’s exactly how I felt. But for some reason, I took the risk. I accepted Chuck’s generous gift, I joined the band, and I did okay. And it turned out to be a lot of fun!

Funny how that commercial brought those memories rushing back. Not only have I kept that old cornet. It is proudly displayed in our music room–dents and all–as a reminder of the provision of my parents, my husband, and the graciousness of God himself.

And my joy of music rather than my shame has been handed down to my three children who play piano, mandolin, guitar, bass, banjo, cello, violin, and whatever else they choose to play. Praise God for second chances–and even (who can believe it) for commercials?!

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HAVE MERCY

By Lisa Huddleston

 

Lord Have MercySome times are all about choices

Others seem all about fate

The first are fights in the present

The second are struggles through wait

 

I still have a lot on my mind, and at the same time my mind is so unfocused that it feels empty in its lack of direction. No one issue seems to hold center stage for long.

In times like these, even my prayers can lack focus. But I have found one thing to pray when the spiral begins:

Lord Jesus Christ

Have mercy on us

 

Amen.

 

 

INTENTIONAL LIVING IN THE SECOND HALF

"His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me." (Artist, Sarah Essary)

“His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” (Artist, Sarah Essary)

By Lisa Huddleston

The subtitle of this blog site is “Intentional Living in the Second Half” so I think it’s fair (even right) to share my recent experiences with a bad mammogram simply because they are all too familiar to too many women of a “certain age.”

Don’t panic anyone–I have no news yet, and Chuck and I definitely expect it to be good when it does arrive. But I thought it may help someone else stay calm/know what to expect/find comaradery to share what I’ve experienced so far.

I scheduled my yearly mammogram a little late this year. I hadn’t received a reminder from my GYN’s office so by the time I remembered to book an appointment with her I was already a few months late. Then I put off the mammo until after the holidays–you know, just in case there was anything that needed to be dealt with. We women always expect “it” to happen some day, and the holidays are crazy enough as they are so I waited just a little bit more.

On the first week of January, I went in for the annual smooshed pancake photography session. No fun but no biggie. All seemed well, although they did take a few extra shots on my right side. I left feeling unconcerned and happy to check that off the list for another year.

A week later I received “the call.” They had seen something suspicious and would like me to come back in for some more pictures. They promised me that I would “know something” that day. I made the appointment for Thursday and let it go. Truly. I felt calm and a little supernaturally distant from the whole idea. Lots of people have “bad” mammograms that turn out to be nothing. I really wasn’t worried.

That day my attitude began to change a bit as picture after picture was made trying to get a better look at whatever it was they saw in there. It definitely was small (“Good news,” I thought), but they sure were determined to see it–enough so that my pancake felt more like a crepe by the time they were finished!

Finally the radiologist appeared from his darkened office to tell me that he really couldn’t tell me much. (“What?! They promised!”) He felt it would be wise for me to have a “needle biopsy” done to be sure that there wasn’t any cancer. Okay, he may not have actually used the “C” word, but it was heavy in the air and in the doctor’s and tech’s sympathetic faces. I acted nonchalant and joked with the tech as she told me I would be receiving a call later that day from the hospital. My brain iced over just a little, but I still felt abnormally calm. I mean, how surprising can it be when breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in America? We all know people who have been touched by it, and I think we all secretly expect it to come to us one day. (Maybe that’s just me? Maybe not.)

Nope. No call that day. The next day (Friday) a nurse from my GYN’s office called to say she would make an appointment for me with a group of surgeons in Nashville. Hmmm … surprise! Not where or with whom I had been told to expect, but still okay. Probably a good choice. But I didn’t actually get the appointment scheduled until the next Monday. And, finally, after another week and a day of waiting, that appointment was, ta da, yesterday.

Chuck went with me (oh I love me that man!) It’s always great to have a medical translator along. My own, personal patient advocate. But I must admit, it was awkward and a little weird to have him sitting in the corner of the room holding my bra, sweater, and purse while I received the most thorough breast exam the world has ever known. (Ever kneaded bread dough? Yep.) We have been laughing about it since then, but overall the visit went well. We liked the doctor very much. She doesn’t expect to find “C” and said there’s an 80 per cent chance of its being benign. Good.

But she did say I need to have a stereotactic biopsy rather than the simpler needle biopsy I expected. Surprise again!  Next week. Ugh. (I have a friend who said it’s like have a curtain rod jammed into you!) But there will be Valium and local anesthesia (thank you, God), and I will survive.

So … intentional living goes on and will keep going on regardless of the results of next week’s test. I’ll keep you posted on the whole curtain rod thing, and I’d appreciate your prayers. I still believe that it’s going to be okay, but either way, nothing surprises God.*

We sang “His Eye is on the Sparrow” in church Sunday morning, “And I know He watches me.”

*(Disclaimer: It’s easy to sound brave now. I know. It will be much harder if the news is not what we expect–and I won’t even try to fake it. I hope I don’t sound flippant to those of you who are fighting cancer right now. My heart goes out to you. Blessings!)

BREATHING SPACE

Waiting_for_the_PresidentBy Lisa Huddleston

My mind is a pinball this morning–not just in its puny size but in its bouncy inability to settle in one place. So many thoughts, so many concerns, so many needs. Oh God, I turn to you.

“God, the one and only–I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I need comes from him, so why not? He’s the solid rock under my feet [under all our feet] and breathing room for my soul” (Psalm 62).

David writes these words when attacks are coming from every side, and I understand how he feels. I’ll wait as long as God says, because I have no choice. I can’t force resolutions–not for the one whose father is dying, not for the one whose job hangs in the balance, not for the one hiding from shame, not for the one waiting to hear about medical concerns. I’ll wait, we’ll all wait, because we have no choice.

But God is good for it. He alone can take us through the waiting times. He alone gives us breathing room for our souls. Deep breathing not short pants.

“Strength comes straight from God.”

I love you, Lord God. You make all things right.

SPINNING WHEEL, GOT TO GO ROUND

"Guilda"

“Guilda”

By Lisa Huddleston

I finally found a spinning wheel in good shape and for a good price! It is a treasure I have been looking for since fall and suddenly here it is.

Chuck and I rushed out of church Sunday morning to meet the lady who was selling it for the Nashville Handweavers Guild (thus the name, “Guilda”). She had plans to join some friends for lunch so we were pressed to make it to her house on time, but I was thrilled once I saw what great shape the wheel was in and couldn’t wait to get it home.

As it so happened, I was already scheduled to go to a fiber group meeting on Monday where the topic for the day was (you won’t believe it) spinning! I took my new friend, Guilda, and my old friend, Lisa Kent, along with me, and we headed way out in the country to Auburntown where the meeting was being held in a lovely studio full of looms and wheels. The ladies in the group assured me I had gotten a great deal, and they did some maintenance on my wheel, but no matter how hard I tried that day, I simply could not get Guilda to spin any yarn. I left after hours of failed attempts feeling frustrated and full of despair.

Again, it just so happened that I began the first of my two classes for this semester that very evening–almost as soon as I made it back to Lebanon. So out with the self-pity and on with the learning. Yes, I was tense. Yes, I felt close to tears. But … onward. I mean, what choice did I really have?

The next day was one of my twice-a-week mornings at the Adult Learning Center where I volunteer (and the reason I am working to renew my teaching license). No time to relax or unwind. I just kept pushing on. Lunch with my daughter and son-in-law then home to figure out the online system for Cumberland University.  A few moments of hair-pulling hysteria over all the assignments I saw listed for the next few months and then some homework. Finally, I cooked dinner, and Chuck and I made our way to the den to relax.

Almost yarn.

Almost yarn.

In Chuck’s lingo relax means “work on something and be productive” so he asked me if I’d like him to take a look at my wheel. “Sure,” said I in what I’m certain was a surly and skeptical voice so he carried Guilda up from the basement where I had banished her after her bad behavior on Monday, and he patiently watched and listened as I began the frustrating process of showing him what wasn’t working properly–how the roving wasn’t spinning into yarn. We both could hear a “drag” somewhere and finally found that the tension on the bobbin was way too tight. Once we loosened it, I was able to make a tiny bit of very loose and wobbly “yarn.” Then I put Guilda, and soon myself, to bed. Both of us felt a little less tense, but I didn’t want to push my luck and put too much strain on our newly restored relationship. She and I will bond another day when my schedule eases a little.

And isn’t that the way it is. There are times when you simply cannot control your surroundings. Relationships strain. Activities back up. Assignments arrive. Even “treasures” appear when you least expect them causing readjustments on your adjustments that cause even more stress. It doesn’t take many days like that before life gets out of rhythm, and you come unstrung. Well, at least that’s what happens to me.

If only I were as easy to adjust as Guilda is. A twist on a knob and her tension is eased. I take a little more work than that, but the intentionality of the event is really very much the same. Look at what’s happening around me. Listen to where the strain is coming from. Loosen up and let go of what isn’t absolutely necessary, and let the rhythm return. Up, down, up, down, smooth easy treadling will get things back on track.

And it doesn’t hurt to have a calm, mechanically-minded husband around either–just to ease some of the tension.

Peace out, and keep spinning, my friends.

OH, SO THAT’S WHY

wild-sage-homestead-aha-momentBy Lisa Huddleston

My pastor preaches verse by verse through one book of the Bible at a time, and last week he began the Old Testament book of Judges. Being an eager beaver type I like to read ahead, so this morning I was pondering Chapter 2. Yesterday I had penciled in the margin of Chapter 1, “Why couldn’t they [the Israelites] manage to drive out all the other people? Surely, God could manage.” And then today I read 2:23–“That’s why God let those nations remain. He didn’t drive them out or let Joshua get rid of them.”

Okay, you have to read back a little further to get the “that’s why.” You see, Chapter 2 tells us that after all of Joshua’s generation died out, there was no one left who knew anything about God or who followed Him. (What? How did that happen?!)

Well, anyway, that ignorant generation started worshiping other gods and so God left all those other nations there in His Promised Land in order to test Israel and see whether they would stay on His path or not.

Whew! That is so sad on so many levels.

First, how did a whole generation not know about God? Didn’t their parents teach them? What happened to cause them to forget? Is that same thing happening today?

Second, I can’t help wondering what God is leaving in my life to keep me on track–you know, to test me and keep me honest. Ugh. I wrote out a little list and stuck it in my Bible right there on that page so it will be there when Pastor Jim preaches these words. I hope to hear more that day.

Maybe then I’ll be able to say, “Oh, so that’s why!”