Thursday, January 31, 2013

2012: The Year of Reconciliation

Did I hear Him right? Or was that just me talking?

The Year of Reconciliation

Rule of thumb is when you think you've heard a word from the Lord, you wait and see. If it happens, it was Him. If it doesn't, it was indigestion.

Now some of you are reacting like I did in the last post when the girl started talking about her third eye. This is weird!  And well it may be if one didn't believe in a personal, living God who interacts in the present with his children.

Compelled by a strong sense I prayed about the new year, last year early in January 2012. (See Pray, Pray, Pray Jan 2012 post).

And I thought I heard:
The Year of Reconciliation

Wishful thinking, I doubted again. What is this some kind of Chinese mimic impersonating as  the small voice of God?  The year of the snake. The year of the monkey, my mind mocked. 2012 will be the year of Reconciliation again was impressed on my heart in inaudible words. 

OK. That sounds good to me! Let her roll!

There were too many broken friendships. A family rift that brought waves of profound sadness and left a deep ache in their wake. Cards sent, but not acknowledged. Phone calls unreturned. Missing birthdays, milestones and sharing daily life. Absent dinner partners. No close friends to call for spontaneous nights out.

Sweet friends, deeply loved relatives, relationships that had been soured by money mishaps, hurtful words. Even death had ripped through a segment of relatives, 7 years long. All these waiting, begging, praying to be reconciled and restored.

Could it be possible that God was going to answer all these in one year?

So the days, weeks and months went on. I fasted and prayed periodically for these people. Fasted and prayed, fasted and prayed. God could do it on His own, but wants us to be a part of it, learning deep truths about Him in the process, never discovered had we not prayed. Prompted by Him, enabled by Him, we find prayer is the catalyst.

One Sunday we returned home from church to find the start of the first reconciliation sitting in our kitchen. A friend of our boys stayed all afternoon and apologized for well meaning actions that had caused conflict in our household. Tears and embraces later we were on our way to healing.

Next, the second came in the form of repaid debt. Wow, now I can look these people in the eyes when I run into them.

Then there was a letter declaring love to a 7 year-long estranged family member. She called the next day. This was HUGE for us all. Finally that letter was written that broke the silence, followed by a waterfall of happy crying, conversation, and catching up.

And lots and lots of long-overdue laughter. This family member was the Queen of Laughter and boy, had I missed it - and her - back again from 7 years of famine. We now feast on the release of reconciliation.

Finally, the unexpected one, well, they all were unexpected.  I didn't have the face-to-face meeting of my 3-decade long adopted daughter on my list of reconciliations. I talked regularly to her. After an attempt to lunch with her that was followed by 3 years of silence, I wasn't ever going to suggest meeting again. But when she said, "Why don't we meet up?" before an October 2012  visit to California, I was once again bowled over by God's long list of relational restorations He was blessing our year with.

Only He can do this. Only he can humble a heart to ask forgiveness when one wants to defend their position, stand their ground. Only He can soften a person to declare love from an open heart, when pride wants to close it tight.
Only God can do that. 

What freedom and joy and richness in the renewed relationships!

Truly blessed because of Him this 2012, the Year of Reconciliation.

What will 2013 bring?

I have an idea and I'm praying about it.....

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Purple Stones and Other Worthless Idols

I put it off as long as I can.

Going to Sally's Beauty supply to buy hair product to cover my dark roots. It's such a foil ridden, hair-in-my-face, bending over backward to get the back strands, bleachy, messy ordeal. For 2 hours I look like a metal Medusa. That's what it takes to highlight this scandalously long hair, as my daughter puts it.

But I went, picked out the packet and two bottles of developer because they were on sale and stood in line to pay.

The cashier with blood-red dyed hair and eyebrows to match was fumbling and fighting with a receipt, tearing it in half, apologizing, dropping things and otherwise having a very difficult time of ringing up her customers. As I approached my turn, she said,

"Have you ever had one of those days where you seem to be all thumbs and clumsy?"

"All the time," I replied.

While she explained to me the difference between 30 volume and 20 volume developer, I noticed a pretty purplish marbled stone on her register.


"Is that amethyst?" I asked.

"No, it's something I can't really pronounce...charo...sharite...something like that." She went on, " it opens the frontal chakra and the back lobe chakra and the third eye, you know, so your mind is aware, thoughts are clear and everything is flowing smoothly through your body."

I was a little rattled by the 'third eye' thing but blurted out

"It doesn't seem to be working for you today,  does it?"

Did I really just say that? The verbal filter thins out as we enter the deeps of middle age.
But she wasn't offended. Instead she picked up the rock, caressed it and kneaded it in the palm and fingers of one hand, punched register keys with the other and said endearingly, "I just love it."

Collecting my package and walking away I pondered. Is that rock going to help you when you need help? Will it rescue you when you need rescuing? Worthless idols, dead objects that have

no eyes to see
no ears to hear
no heart to love you back.

Just like the worthless things I spend my time on: stupid TV shows that I think are going to make me feel better or the rush of  a new purchase to perk up my day,  dark chocolate, excessive sunning, or....a myriad of other things that disappoint and leave me empty.....

I also felt really guilty for not being gracious and telling her about the love of Jesus,

the true and living God.

Maybe someone kinder will speak those words and give her more than a lump of lavender granite to place her faith in.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Incredible Shrinking Paycheck - Ode to the Hill

Finally got my 2% cost-of-living raise.  Boy, was I looking forward to seeing a higher number on the net pay line of my stub.

To my surprise and dismay, the amount was lower!  By 3 dollars! Come to find out my OASDI taxes had increased 6 dollars more a month than my raise. 

I guess I should be happy, at least it was a wash. It could have been less!

How was your January paycheck's bottom line? Bigger? Smaller?

But I'm really not happy. In fact, I'm pretty bothered and upset.


Pardon me while I get political, don my hippie clothes and sing a protest song.

Ode To the Hill

Tax my paycheck
Tax my phone
Tax my land and
Tax my home
Some things should be left alone.

Tax the middle
Tax the rich
Tax our work
To scratch some itch
That health care plan is such a bitter
 Pill to swallow. 
 Leaves our check books

Tax my liscence
Tax my car
Tax the gas that
Won't go far
Lowering the income bar.

Recent raise
Was a just a wash,
It now pays
 New Budget laws.
Passed at midnight
while we all were sleeping. 
January pay stubs sent us weeping. 
Snubbed and stiffed,
We wakened to disaster,
finding ourselves plastered
at the bottom
While some sit pretty on the Hill.
All due respect to the Hill, but
We have had our fill.

Tax our kids, Next
Tax our breath!!

Tax us all to death!

Copyright A. Marbury Shaw 2013

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Letter to My Son on His 20th Birthday

My third son graduated from highschool on a Wednesday and the following Sunday he was in New York City with a couple of job interviews and a friend's couch to sleep on.

He is now in his second year of college, has a place to live and is supporting himself.

Today on his 20th birthday, I wrote to him:

Dear Son,

You are 20 years old today! No longer a teenager - almost a full grown man- making his way in this world, and decisions that a man makes to conquer his world.

You know, it was part of God's commission to Adam in the Garden - to care for creation, subdue it and order it. The call of a man is the same today.  God gave the earth to man - its systems, subjects and soil, to governance responsibly. College will give you the tools to effectively accomplish that commission and to fulfill God's purposes for your life.

I'm praying for the best year ever for you, son; that you would have a renewed mission and clearer vision for your life. 

I can't imagine feeling any prouder of you than I already am. But I'm certain you are going to astound us all with your future accomplishments!

All my love and a very Happy Birthday!

Mom, xxooo


I'm trying a different parenting approach this year with my three nearly grown adult sons:

Affirmation, not Accusation
Nudging, not Nagging
Asking questions first, giving Advice second
Suggesting, not Stating the obvious course of direction.

My son really is doing well. But I fear he could stray from his schooling goals in a heartbeat; that fun, friends and motorcycles could distract him from the reason he pays 2/3rds of the amount of my mortgage for a small bedroom and lives 1100 miles away. It is for his education, unequivocally. Oh, and to have a little fun along the way.

We'll see how my method works...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Disappearing Piano

First you see it. Then you don't. Sorta like magic. Black in my book. That's the way these large beautiful instruments keep disappearing, being replaced by overpriced electronic impostors.

Granted, synthetic piano sounds have come a long way since #8 on the DX-7 in the early 80's. (Love that patch!) There's nothing like the old Rhodes or a good electric piano and funky or techno synthesized sound banks. New timbres inspire creativity, for sure. But not at the expense of losing the natural acoustic. 

All the sampling in the world can't come close to its sonorous overtones, velvet tone, and lively harmonics. The longer, the better. I've got my eye on a premium  Steinway at Chafin Music Trade my Kawai in and it'll still put me back to make that black beauty mine!

Maybe I just don't appreciated the wonders of 21st century technology. But how can a tiny chip and fibers ever produce the sonic richness that organic materials of ebony, strings, wooden hammers and felt can? Can you simulate A-440? Make 440 vibrations per second by artificial means? How can the thin spectrum of electricity transfer the nuances of human touch? 'Touch sensitivity' features and weighted keys try, but fall sadly short of responding to the sharp hit of fingertip, gentle dip of wrist, lift of hand, elbows and all manner of technique, arm and shoulder pressure and, last but not least: expression of heart.

I think that's what the poser keyboards are missing:


Their piano sounds have the resonance of a leaky faucet drip in a bathtub ....

and are equally annoying...


                                                                                                              dink, dink, dink....

This personal beef all started when a large local church began changing out their grand pianos with double keyboards, whose manufacturer's name is a four letter word, not coincidental, in my opinion. The pianos took backstage - literally - but could still be found in use for a choir practice, funeral or low profile worship set.

I really can't blame the guys who made the decision. They're guitarists after all.

They      know      not      what      they      do.

They can pick up their acoustic instrument anytime, sans the need of amp, cables nor electricity. Though I have to say, the latter version dominates the majority of the 200 decibel song stylings. Variety of arrangements wanting.

First, the maple grand in the fellowship hall went missing.

Then the 9 foot satin Yamaha in the main sanctuary vanished from the vast backstage (It had long left front and center).

Finally, the 5'2" in the choir room was hauled off last week.....

"They're so much trouble to keep in tune."
"Our worship culture really doesn't call for grands on the platform"
"The budgets need a year-end replenishment to return them to the black." (Yup! - after the pricy purchase of 6 replacement keyboard sets).

All the pretty grand pianos.

Sold off,

one by one,

leaving an artistic and asthetic void,

an eerie vacancy,

the absence of interpretive pathos.

An unsettling barrenness in the musical landscape.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Illustrated Disappearing Slip

Before I leave the 'riveting' Disappearing Slip post, I'd like to add 3 illustrations recently gathered.

Antique lawn pantaloons and embroidered half slip from 1880's (and earlier).
Pantaloons worn by Mildred Crompton-Smith as a girl.

Number 1 - In a plain white box my mother saved a chemise, slip and 'lawn pantaloons' (hmm...lawn pantaloons?..Does one wear them only on the lawn??) that were my great grandmother Mildred Crompton-Smith's.

Complete with drawstring and convenient opening in the back

Embroidered half-slip circa 1880's

Number 2 - Unsolicited, with the topic fresh on my mind, my mother in law told her story on Christmas Eve of how her built-in slip saved her from embarrassment when skirt met with blustery day, neighbors watching.

Grandma Bernice underscoring the necessity of a slip, saucy look in eye.

Number 3 - And then there's Miss Hathaway.

Anne Hathaway's unintentional wardrobe malfunction underscoring the necessity of, uh,
any kind of undergarment.... actually. 

  Anne was worried about underwear lines showing through her especially snug gown at the Les Mis debut. One person commented on my last post that a Spanx (the latest body shaping invention), would have done the trick. Forgoing certain pieces of clothing should be limited to a date with your husband, alone, I think, not in the presence of millions. 

That's all I'm going to say about that because I promised my daughter I'd be nice to the usually demure Hathaway who is starring in our favorite Victor Hugo classic.

Long live this latest endangered species.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Very Human Christmas

Grandmother Herta Schenk-Allen circa 1915, Harrisburg, PA.

 Uncle Ralph delights in decorations - picture window perfect.

My parents, Walter & Isabel Allen, 1950, Hollywood CA.
A  newly-wedded couple's Christmas.

After so many Christmases you'd think I'd learned to approach them realistically. That is - without this expectation of flawless people, mealtimes and moments.

Regarding the top photo of Grandma Herta. Looks iconic and idealistic, doesn't it? One Christmas entry from her husband, my grandfather Sherman's diary read like this:

Dec 27, 1914: Cold & clear. I am in disfavor with Herta. Sing cantata by Brewer, The Holy Night. 
Dec 24, 1915: Gift trouble with Herta (probably mine to her not satisfactory) We have the children in for the tree 5-7 P.M.

Not so perfect as it looks.

When I returned to work 2 days after Christmas, my friend refused to talk about her Christmas. Of course, I had to know more. "The day started with crying and ended with crying, " she said.

"Oh well, how bout that?  I cried in the middle of it, " I exclaimed!  So between the two of us,  we rounded out the whole day for a not-as-special-as-we'd-hoped-for, teary Christmas.

Ours started beautifully with Handel's Messiah on the record or CD player (whichever one is working at the time...For unto us a Child is Born...), Betty Crocker's Jolly Breakfast ring, a traditional coffee cake my mother always made, hardboiled eggs, orange juice, coffee. I've expanded the menu with mini-quiches and bacon or sausage. We fill our Christmas plates and gather round the tree for a great time of gift opening.

Mother-in-law joined us. 

After the grand finale gift of a ping-pong table (to lure my son and his teenager friends to hang out at OUR house), the dinner prep starts. Table set for 8.

Mother in law said she's going home. She's tired. I had offered a nap earlier anticipating her fatigue,  to which she had been offended that I thought she'd need one. "No, I'm going home. " She resolved.  No Christmas dinner together? This nearly a cardinal sin in my book. You have to be together for Christmas, with your best on, the silver out, ham, scalloped potatoes, cranberry salad, roasted carrots, crystal goblets and wine glasses of Martinelli. You have to stay.

"Let her go",  my husband says. After which I receive a spousal lecture on being insensitive to averting a Christmas catasrophe. "Do you want a cranky old lady at your dinner table? I'm trying to keep peace on a holiday and you are oblivious to anything but your precious dinner."

So I remove one place setting and chair and continue preparing for 7 for dinner, wiping tears. I just wanted a Christmas with the whole family present!

Then, while halving grapes on a cutting board,  the special Christmas moment snuck up on me.... unexpectedly. You have to watch for them or you'll miss them entirely:

Son and friend in the kitchen, while I cook, we see how many lyrics to White Christmas, Silver Bells, and Chestnuts we remember by heart. It was sweet, the 3 of us outdoing one another singing accapella. His mother passed from cancer last year and he is here for Christmas dinner.

Just as I am serving, he announces he has to go. Granted, dinner is an hour and a half off schedule because of unexpected mid-day lecture and cry-spell, so it's partly our fault.

"Another family invited me and I thought I'd be done by now and make both dinners. Is that rude, Mrs Shaw?" I wanted to shout "YES! It's very rude!" But I didn't and smiled as I removed another place setting and chair from the dining table, now set for 6. Both leaves in the table we are all really spread out now.

Meanwhile, my work-friend who started and ended her Christmas crying, said she kept getting unexpected guest at her Christmas Dinner. Son is not welcome at girlfriend Christmas table because he had not formally met the father. So he stays home. She adds a place setting and chair. Then girlfriend comes. Add another. So her table is the exact opposite of mine. Too late to undo everything and add a leaf, she has squeezed 8 people on a table for 6.

It's hilarious to me to think that these two opposite developments were happening at the same time, in different houses, a few miles apart, each mother of the house a little frustrated and disappointed that our Smitten Kitchen/Martha Stewart meal was not transpiring as expected.

It was after all, and always will be, a very human Christmas. And we will take what we can get, both prickly pine needles and lovely spicy scent, with a grateful heart.

Leave your email address here to receive automatic blog updates.