Tag Archives: Friendship

The Joy of Reunion

Candy blogs: Today I take a personal point of privilege. I’ve been browsing through time, reflecting on times past, remembering young love and beautiful music. I spent the last weekend of June, 2011 at, of all places, a high school choir reunion. This was not the usual class reunion where you come with high expectations and leave disappointed. As it turned out, my expectations of this event couldn’t even touch the beautiful reality we experienced. 

1975-76 Sheldon High A Capella Choir

 
I come from a very musical family. Music and singing have always been part of my life. It has been my greatest expression of joy and where I’ve always felt the most comfortable. The raw, natural abilities were first truly ignited, developed and honed in my high school choir and ensembles. I knew a choir reunion was something I wasn’t going to miss.
 
Since the age of eight, music ministry has always been part of my identity. Five years ago I stopped singing except in congregational worship on Sundays. The reasons were vague and mixed up. There were things I didn’t miss about music ministry. I felt called to mentor women and love on senior adults. My voice weakened with each passing year until I could hardly sing. I was always terrifed that I’d be asked to sing when I went out to speak. But in the back of my mind, the tug of music was always there, reminding me of its joy and beauty and my passion for sharing it.
 
The anticipation of this choir reunion gave me a reason to get my voice back into reasonable performance shape, to rehearse, to read music again. As my husband and I practiced in the weeks before, I could feel the strength of my voice returning, hear the dynamics, sense the flow, feel the beauty rise up in my throat and spill out through happy tears. Music had returned to me. I knew that every choir “kid” who was coming to the reunion had the same anticipation. We made our travel plans.
 

When I first entered the choir room after 35 years, it took my breath away. I had to stop and just look around the old, familiar room. I had spent most of my high school years in that room. I had met the love of my life there. Under the excellent and caring direction of our beloved director, Glenn Patton, I had worked hard, learned life skills and lessons like: never be late, always have good posture, listen to those around you, do what you said you would do, don’t let the team down, work hard, don’t settle for less than your best, you can do more than you think you can, take care of your instrument and, most importantly … sing and play for the utter joy of it. We traveled on buses and planes and competed in festivals and bonded with friends.

We had all felt a sense of belonging, of community, of having created something meaningful together. It all came rushing back.

 

Candy in rehearsal

Rehearsals

A committee had been formed, a website and Facebook page were created, our music had been mailed to us.  Several “Rust Removal Rehearsals”, as Mr. Patton so aptly dubbed them, were held from April through June in two different cities, each directed by our very spry 85 year old director, Mr. Patton. On the choir website, a technically talented choir “kid”, Mike McCornack, himself now a high school choir director, posted recordings of each individual part plus the piano accompaniment for each song. We had the capability of rehearsing by ourselves from our laptops! For those who weren’t able to attend any of the rust removal rehearsals, this was a God-send.

After a coffee and mingling and “which class are you?” time, we all settled into our chairs in the choir room at the very first reunion rehearsal; the anticipation was literally bursting out of us. The first song  we sang together was our high school and choir favorite, “The Old Irish Blessing”. (We were the Sheldon High Irish!) The tears began to flow at the first familiar notes of the introduction and Mr. Patton’s skilled hands brought us all in, all together for the first time. Choir kids had come from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Utah, Wisconsin, Iowa, Texas and the Carolinas to experience this moment. The song begins gently and builds with stunning harmonies, only to end gently again praying that God would hold us in the palm of His hand. The thought came to me during that song that God had indeed held me in the palm of His hand through all these years and I had come full circle.

“I wasn’t prepared for the grand sound of our now-mature voices, gathering once again in that familiar space! WOW, those first few bars put a look on both of your faces that I’ll never, ever forget. Heaven on Earth, for sure. How could the tears not begin to flow?

Max Lucado once said that tears are the silent witnesses to life’s deepest emotional moments. So true. Our tears were a mixture of startling awe, humble pride, pure childlike joy, and honest thanksgiving for the truly once-in-a-life privilege to be present, and to participate in such a magical event. I know we’ll all treasure the sweet memories for the rest of our days.”  choir kid, Kathie Saunders

The power of harmony and music and joy only grew with each rehearsal session. All the reasons we had come together were a joyful reality.

Comaraderie

We gathered for lunches in smaller groups more centered around friends in closer classes in old, familiar gathering spots.

Papa's Pizza

We talked of the past and caught up on each other’s families and careers. We shared and laughed and cried and hugged and took pictures.

We also made new friends. We found out we had brothers and sisters from other classes in Sheldon choirs. But there were no classes at this reunion. We were all choir kids there. We had different individual memories but we all shared the same heart and love for Mr. Patton and our musical experience. Cliques and popularity and drama were no longer an issue. This reunion was even healing somehow of some of those old youthful wounds. We  liked each other even better now.

One choir kid, Mark Agerter, said it this way: “Amazing, incredible, inspiring, surreal, great music, great audience, old friends, new friends, spiritual, emotional, once-in-a-lifetime. You can write down all the descriptions you want, but they all fall short of what this weekend felt like and what the concert truly meant to all of us. No class reunion has been like this.”

Dinner in the cafeteria

Dinner & Open Mic

We enjoyed a catered dinner on that Friday evening in the cafeteria. The dinner conversation all around the room was giddy and delightful. An open mic show followed, with anyone who wanted to performing for everyone.  There was everything from folk music to opera to oldies to rock to stand up comedy. It wasn’t about being perfect; it was about enjoying hearing each other perform again. The Pattons and their family had a front row table, enjoying all the accolades and tributes in many genres of music.

Presenting the Album

The Album

It wouldn’t surprise many of you at all to know that on Saturday morning I presented Mr. & Mrs. Patton with a keepsake photo album of Mr. Patton’s musical career. I had been working on it for several months. He had given me all his pictures and memorabilia and I had read and sorted and arranged everything into a meaningful photo album showcasing and documenting his life of music. It was important to me that the story of the impact of his life on his students and his fellow man was told and preserved for the next generations of his family. It was my labor of love for this great man. It was a powerful few moments in the choir room as I spoke of his life and his music and his greatness. I shall never forget it. Later, after he’d had a chance to look at it, he asked me if I had gotten information from sources other than himself for the album. I told him all the information had come from what he gave me. He had forgotten much of his early life. All the more reason for his story to be told.

Concert

The days passed too quickly and the concert was upon us before we knew it. We waited excitedly in the very hot choir room for the clock to click 6:00 p.m. We filed in as we always had, but this time to a packed auditorium and welcoming applause. The concert began with a powerful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”. This was why we had come. The sweat trickled down our necks and backs under the hot performance lights but our smiles never dimmed. The ten musical numbers went far faster than we wanted them to and too quickly it was over.

Concert-the 95 Voice Choir

My husband, Scott, on drums; Kelly Asay on bass

Full on singing!

Why did this choir reunion, encompassing all classes of choirs, have such an impact on all of us? Even a week later we are all still basking in the glow of the experience. The FB chatter and email are buzzing. None of us wants it to be over. As Mr. Patton said in a television story of our reunion, “Music has been my life, and I think that this is an example of what music can do for people. It can still draw them together and we hope to create some beauty here this weekend.”

Music’s gift is that it can mysteriously touch places in our souls where nothing else can reach. Whatever your story, whatever your opinion, whatever your circumstance, there is a melody to express the inexpressible. Music is a quality of beauty, and beauty forces one to stop and take notice of the moment.

Beauty is powerful. Beauty speaks. š Beauty invites. Beauty nourishes. Beauty comforts. Beauty inspires. The heart begins to quiet and peace begins to come.š There is room for your soul; it expands. You can breathe again; you can rest. It is good. All is well. š That’s what beauty says: all will be well.

 - adapted from Captivating by John & Staci Eldredge

Is it any wonder then that this musical reunion captivated our souls? We always want beauty to linger because we love how it makes us feel. It takes us out of the mundane and into the glorious.

A reunion is a reuniting of segments that have previously been together. How fitting.

Thank you for indulging me in my personal point of privilege.

Friendship, music and beauty to you, my friends. May the wind be always at your back.

 

Settling for a Lump of Coal this Christmas?

Candy blogs: Are you enjoying the Christmas spirit yet? Are you loving the music and the snow and the chill in the air and the warmth of friends and family and the JOY of the Lord? Yes? Wonderful! No? What is keeping you from a joy-filled Christmas?

Are you grieving?
♥ … the loss of loved ones
Does Christmas mark a difficult anniversary of the passing of someone close to you? Let the memories come up. Let them stay awhile and remember how much they added to your life. But don’t dwell there. Allowing yourself to wallow in grief can be toxic in so many ways. Instead choose to celebrate the precious lives of those you miss. This is how they would want to be remembered, don’t you think?
♥ … the loss of relationships
This time of year is for spending time with loved ones. Perhaps your loved one rejected you through a break up or a divorce. Maybe a close friend has moved away and you can’t share daily life together anymore. Or you have allowed a rift to develop between you and your parents or your child. Let the hurt come up. Let it stay awhile. But don’t dwell there. Wallowing in the hurt only intensifies the pain. Choose to keep moving forward toward healing. Learn to let go.
♥ … the loss of a job
This has been a truly difficult year economically for our country. I have been unemployed for nine long months myself. Many have lost their homes and possessions. Along with the loss of a job comes the loss of self worth and feelings of powerlessness. Marriages can become tense; children can become afraid of the future. As the months have gone by, my husband and I have discovered that we really can live on a lot less than we thought we needed. Our needs have changed, become more basic. We have watched God provide for our needs. We have chosen to draw closer to each other. Do all you can, and let God be God of your finances.

Troubled about the money you may or may not be spending?
♥ … embarrassed that you can’t buy gifts for all the people you usually do?
This troublesome attitude usually comes more from our own heads than from anyone we usually buy gifts for.
♥ … buying gifts even though you may not have the money?
Think of tomorrow and how painful it will be when the bills come due. Think of what you’re teaching your children by spending money you don’t have. There are many other ways to celebrate the Christmas spirit than overspending on things that will be broken or laid aside in short order.
♥ … using Christmas and sales and great deals to feed your shopping habit because “it’s for other people” and not yourself?

Hanging on to issues you have no control over?
♥ … hurt or unresolved feelings
These things won’t go away on their own. They won’t go away if we pretend they don’t exist. Communicate, for heaven’s sake! We can’t read each other’s minds. We get “stuck” when we choose not to work through differences and misunderstandings. Who wants to be stuck?!
♥ … unforgiveness
Unforgiveness only hurts ourselves. It does not affect the offender. Forgiving doesn’t mean you are denying a wrong done to you. It only means that you release its hold on your ability to function in a healthy way. I believe forgiveness is a choice, not an emotion. You may still have feelings of pain but you don’t dwell there anymore, and you don’t have to let your feelings dictate your state of mind and your hope for the future.
“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again … my lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you.” Psalm 71:20, 23
♥ … pride
Our pride keeps us from being the one to move toward reconciliation. Perhaps you’re the wronged one. Maybe you are right. It should be THEIR place to come to ME to apologize. Our pride keeps us holding on to hurt feelings or being right. Is your pride worth the loss of relationship?

First things first …
♥ … Jesus is the reason for the season
Jesus came to earth as one of us, a baby. But He is God and we worship Him today, just as they worshiped Him when He was born. His love and grace are poured into us so we can pour it out onto our loved ones especially in this season. We celebrate His coming!
♥ … time spent with loved ones building relationship
Is being right worth broken relationships? Are hurt feelings worth withholding ourselves from each? Do material things or lack of them truly represent and/or build relationship? Nothing is worth broken relationships. Nothing. Come together with your loved ones.
♥ … the choice is yours … why wait? Are you hanging on to that familiar lump of coal when you could be having bouquets of roses, messages of joy and a praising heart?

“He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace
a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies—
and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.”
Isaiah 61:1-3

There is plenty of time for healing and celebrating this Christmas!

Joy awaits you!

Joy to you from Candy during Christmas

We Are Who We Hang With

Candy blogs:I am me, of course, but I am made up of the influence of people I have spent time with throughout my life. I love to turn back the pages of time and browse through the faces of dear friends and family who have journeyed with me. Each of them was and is a unique kind of relationship, bringing just what I need at the right time.

♥ I hang my towels a certain way because I admired the way my aunt, Shirley, hung hers.
♥ I make my award-winning chili based on the way a friend from long ago, Callie, made hers.
♥ I make beds the way my Grandma Blanche taught me … right side to right side so when you make the bed and turn the edge down over the blanket, the “right” side of the edge shows. And when you turn back the sheets at night both “right” sides show.
♥ I am always aware of my countenance, the impression my facial expression gives, because of how taken I always was with the beautiful countenance of my aunt, Bonnie.
♥ I make sandwiches like my mom did, with the filling all the way to the edges of the bread so you can get everything in the sandwich with every bite.
♥ I take pictures differently because of the things my photographer daughter, Abbey, has taught me.
♥ I added lamps to bedrooms long ago because I loved the atmosphere they created when I visited in my mother in law, Patty’s, home.
♥ when I was first married I didn’t know how to make gravy. But when I visualized my mother making gravy and followed those steps, it came out perfectly.

This list is only the beginning of the things I have taken from dear people over my lifetime. We all have a list like this. We women are such relational beings. We define ourselves by our relationships. We need each other. Who is making this faith journey with you? Are you paying attention?

Listening friends … we all need someone who will just listen with a merciful heart when we need to blow off steam.

Truthful friends … our truth-telling friends keep us authentic and accountable. “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” Proverbs 12:1

Confidante friends … so welcome when we have a deep need. They make us grateful for their trustworthiness and support.
A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13

Mentor and mentee friendships … there is always someone further ahead of us and always someone coming up behind us. These friends can help us see around corners, and we can help our younger sisters in the Lord feel more confident about stepping into the future.

Season of life friends … sometimes God brings people into our lives for a season. We might share a common sorrow or our kids are the same age or we have gone through similar experiences and can show support. God knows what we need in all seasons of our life.

It’s important to look around at who you spend your time with. Some relationships are toxic and draining, one sided, or forced and uncomfortable. We mustn’t allow ourselves to be overwhelmed or overshadowed by toxic relationships. Untangle yourself from these, or put up healthy boundaries. Protect your state of mind, your sense of well being from others who take more than they give.

Who we spend much time with does make a difference in who we become. Invest in friendships and relationships wisely. Take another look at your friends … who is influencing who in your relationships? Do you want to be like those you spend the most time with?

He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20

For those reading from somewhere else:
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Interview: Christy Bower, author of Best Friends with God

I am honored to present an interview and book review with Christy Bower, author of Best Friends with God: Falling in Love with the God who Loves You. I first met Christy by accidentally running across her blog when I was learning what blogs were and searching out blogs to follow. We had many of the same tags. And we have become e-friends! When her book was finished and published, I wanted to help get the word out.

by Christy Bower

GIVEAWAY!
I do have a copy of this book to give away! Your name will be entered as comments are made on this post. You’ll love this read. Through her struggles and questioning, Christy has great insight about the love of God. I am halfway through the book at this writing. It has made me stop and think more deeply about how I perceive God’s love toward me. I have especialy enjoyed the way she re-tells the stories of the Bible characters she writes about.

You say that after salvation, the first step on the journey to becoming best friends with God is to believe that He loves us. Isn’t that what every Christian believes anyway? What are we missing?

We tend to think of God loving “the world” as in John 3:16. We are part of that collective “world” so we know that He loves us. Christ died for us, but He died for everyone else too. God’s love can seem distant and impersonal. We know that somewhere “out there” God loves us, but here and now we struggle to feel God’s love for us as an individual.

Sometimes we need a little help to learn to identify the ways that God demonstrates His love toward us. As we begin to notice His gestures of love toward us, we know that He loves us, not as part of the collective “world” but as an individual. When this happens, we are well on our way to becoming best friends with God.

In your chapter on Job, you talk about a time when you were very sick for six months. Tell us about that and what you learned about God’s love from that experience.

I was mostly bed-ridden for six months. My temperature would flare up to 102-104 degrees for several days at a time. Antibiotics and steroids had no effect. All my blood tests came back normal, except that the level of infection in my blood was too high. My vital organs were fine, so the infection was hiding elsewhere. With no medial answers in sight, it occurred to me that I may have to live like this for the rest of my life. I wondered how I would define my value and purpose if I could no longer work and others had to care for me.

I came to realize that even if I was confined to bed for the rest of my life, I could still fulfill the Greatest Commandment by loving God from my bed. Loving God is the Greatest Commandment because that is all God expects of us. Loving God is also the simplest commandment because if we can do nothing else, we can love the Lord. Even confined to bed, not contributing to society, I have worth to God.

As for my illness, it turned out to be a severe sinus infection caused by rare bacteria that don’t respond to typical antibiotics. During the six months of my illness, I learned to spend my time letting God love me and loving God—from my bed. And it forever changed my understanding of what God really expects of us.

If the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord, how do we get our emotions to obey a command?

No matter how much we try to make ourselves feel love, we simply can’t generate feelings of love on our own, can we? Love is not a self-attained virtue.

Fortunately, God does not command us to generate feelings of love on our own because love comes from God (1 John 4:7) and “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). So God commands us to do something—love—that we cannot do on our own, but only He can do through us. Sounds surprising, doesn’t it? But God also desires our salvation, which is not something we can do on our own; only God can save us. Our dependence on Him is essential to having a relationship with Him. And through our relationship with Him, we are transformed by love.

Speaking of dependence on God, you talked about how important it is for us to bring our needs to God. Why do you say that we create a “two-way blessing” when we admit our needs to God?

It’s easy for us to become so independent that we live our lives as if we don’t need God, but we can’t feel God’s love for us if we won’t let Him close enough to demonstrate His love for us. When we bring our needs to God in prayer it allows God to demonstrate His love for us by giving us what we need, but God also feels loved by us because we trusted Him and came to Him for help. That’s a two-way blessing.

We try to make God’s love complex, but it’s really quite simple. We experience God’s love for us by letting Him meet our needs, and we demonstrate our love for God by letting Him meet our needs. How simple is that?

Most Christians would say that they demonstrate their love for God through obedience and service. Yet you encourage Christians to take a “spiritual sabbatical” from Christian service. Explain what you mean by that.

It’s easy to get carried away, adding one thing and then another until we are overloaded. But Jesus said, “No longer do I call you slaves . . . but I have called you friends” (John 15:15). God doesn’t want our service; He wants our friendship. God does not pile on one duty after another. There is nothing that you do for God that is more important than your relationship with God.

If your relationship with God ever begins to suffer, I believe it is healthy to take a leave of absence from your Christian service or ministry in order to focus on your relationship with God without other distractions. I refer to this as taking a spiritual sabbatical. If doing Christian things has become more important or more demanding than your relationship with God, then it’s time to take a spiritual sabbatical—for as long as it takes to restore a healthy relationship with God.

Tell us about the character-based format of the book. And then wrap things up by explaining what you would like readers to get out of this book?

Best Friends with God is a follow-up to my previous book, Devotion Explosion, and it follows the same format. Each chapter focuses on a different person in the Bible and begins with a narrative that portrays the biblical character, followed by a discussion of what we can learn from that person about becoming best friends with God. The study questions at the end of each chapter can be used for individual or group study.

I pray that readers would know that God loves them as an individual and not merely as part of “the world.” I would like them to begin to experience an interactive relationship with God by accepting God’s gestures of love toward them and experiencing a heartfelt response of love toward God. I hope that readers will grow to feel like they are best friends with God.

Christy Bower is the author of three books and numerous articles. Her previous book, Devotion Explosion, is now in its third printing. For more information about Christy, visit her website at www.christybower.com or read her blog at http://christybower.wordpress.com.

We welcome your comments and posts! They are always a blessing. Thanks for stopping by!

I would appreciate your prayers, as I have begun writing the next set of talks for an upcoming women’s retreat.

Feeling Random

Candy blogs: I am feeling random today. I can’t seem to focus. But, as always, many things are flying through my mind!

~ have you viewed your free annual credit report this year? Very important, with identity theft being so common and threatening, to know what is going on in your credit life. Takes about 15 minutes. Here is the truly free site, and you can visit all three credit reporting agencies in one trip.
www.annualcreditreport.com

~ I am desperately missing my water aerobics! The treadmill option ain’t workin’ for me. My aches and pains are back. I think we’re going to have to bite the bullet and start up our club membership again.


~ I have been so inspired by my beautiful friends lately! It’s been a pleasure to have the time to devote to spending more time with them. Spiritual growth, fellowship, girl talk, truth speaking, recipes, laughter & tears. You know, girl stuff. Love it!

~ I’ve had seven job interviews. I really only wanted three of those jobs and I wasn’t chosen for any of them. I’m taking all that to be God’s hand on my life.

~ our son graduated from college this month!

~ I'm glad our primary election is over. I’m hoping all those political signs are removed soon.

~ My speaking calendar has filled in. It's very exciting!

Some good questions to ask ourselves:

* am I spending enough time in UNPLUGGED mode?
* does the way I actually spend my time and money match my priorities and values?
* are my relationships progressing?
* am I anxious to claim my “rights” or am I open to Truth in my spiritual journey?
* am I dressing appropriately as a godly woman?
* am I living intentionally or just drifting through the days?

“1 We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. 3 Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:1, 3

For those reading from somewhere else:
www.candytroutman.wordpress.com

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