31 January 2013

Where is Beauty?

You never know where it might overtake you.  Today, it overtook me in the Walmart parking lot.

30 January 2013

Performance Class

We just had our first performance class of the semester.  I loved it.  The group setting, the students playing, having them all affirm each other (of course I told them they were only allowed to give compliments today).

We celebrated a birthday at the end.  I had debated about making something sugary, knowing that some might not need the extra sweet, and came across a recipe for a smoothie/almost-popsicle instead.  It worked.  They seemed to enjoy it.

I hope they had a nice time like I did, because I want playing the piano in front of people to be something they learn to love, not fear.  I want them to be generous with the gifts they're developing, willing to share what they learn (especially in the church context).  I want them to learn that what they have to offer really is a blessing and a joy to other people, and that playing the piano is something most people wish they hadn't dropped at my students' age.  That it's work, but work with great personal reward.

29 January 2013

Some days, I feel stuck, too.
(Just found this very old draft from the archives...never yet published.)

Not Your Typical Clouds

This is a view we had from our dining room table one morning a couple of weeks ago.  And these were only a small fraction of the cloud that came rushing, seemingly straight toward our window.

So it came as no surprise to me later in the day, or some un-particular afternoon over the next few days, to hear quite the racket of noise when I was out working in the garden.  (Have I ever done that in January before?  I can't think of a time.)  I labored on, enjoying the racket, actually, but determining to stay focused upon my task.  Which didn't work very well.  (The staying focused part.  I actually got things done in the garden.)

Because the noise was too exciting, too inviting.  So I tramped off in my rubber boots that I used while fishing in Alaska (see the label on the sidebar called "Fishing"), through the freshly rained-upon grass of the orchard, then the woods.  The racket got louder as I tramped.

I walked with a sparkle of anticipation in my eyes.  If I could just get there without scaring them first.  Because I wanted to startle them once I got there.  Doesn't that sound mean?

But I did it anyway.  I got there, let them settle (because I did startle them on accident), and clapped my hands.  I learned how to clap with great volume in piano performance class.  I loved the cloud of starlings that instantly took flight, none of whom tried to fly quietly away.

They settled some distance from me, and I wandered back to my garden and muddiness.  They settled in again, too.

And do you know?  They were right there in my front yard the next morning, and I got to take their photo in flight when I opened the door to get a closer look at them.  Can you count the number of starlings in this one little frame?  They were thick, and they were everywhere.

Others around here were complaining of the abundance of starlings this winter.  They didn't know what caused it.  And they certainly didn't want them at their bird feeders.  But the starlings gave me a bit of delight those few days that they flocked near my home, and I'm grateful God made them for me to enjoy.

27 January 2013

Sunday Sky

Today I experimented with taking my pulse before and during exercise.  It was enlightening.  Somewhere around pulse stop two or three, I noticed that the sky looked like this.  So gorgeous.  I love how God paints new pictures every moment, every day in the sky.  Amazing artwork, and a very nice shade of blue.

And by the way, if your life seems cloudy sometimes?  Maybe God is painting something spectacular with the clouds in your sky, to bless someone (or even to bless you yourself).  He doesn't waste any clouds.

23 January 2013

I Am an Example

I encourage all my piano students to learn to play by ear.  Well, I guess I encourage them.  They might say that I require it of them, like it or not.  It works like this:

I play part of a melody twice, and they try to repeat it exactly.  I'm not strict, though, and I usually play it for them as many times as they need me to so that they can learn and memorize the melody.  Once I have given them several sections, we string them all together to make a larger section.  We do this until they have learned an entire  hymn melody by ear.

Then I work with them on the bass line.  I have them learn it the same way as the melody, and when they have a section, we put it together with the melody.  I follow this with the alto, and then the tenor.

But over the last few days I've noticed something.  Right now, since most of them are new at this type of ear training, all but one get to watch my hands on the keyboard as well as listen to the notes.  Most of the time, they focus in on the notes themselves, and do not at all imitate my fingering.

But today, when I was using crazy fingering so my student could see which notes I was highlighting?

My crazy fingering got imitated, too.

I need to remember I'm always an example.  Of something good, or something not so good.  And in the case of fingering, something helpful, or something that will cause my student problems in the future AND in the learning process.

22 January 2013

Keep Your Eyes Open

Keep your eyes open.
You never know where you might see a bit of blue sky.
Even when you thought you were looking in the gutter.

21 January 2013

Five Years Ago Today

Did you realize that five years ago today I published my first post here at Ladder of Mercy?  It's the post that tells you where the blog name came from, and it started a tradition of writing about hymns that I still love.

I thought it would be fun to take a quick snapshot of my life then, compared with my life now.  After all, half a decade can bring a lot of change! 

Back then, I was working as an administrative assistant.  I sometimes longed to earn my living from something "more creative", but was constantly reminded how much I was learning and growing in the field I was in.  {Now I wouldn't trade it for anything.}

Now, I work as a piano teacher (taught seven lessons today, and loved every minute--wish I had more!) as well as a housewife.

Back then, I had many friends who were housewives.  I knew they kept busy.  I know how busy there were now because I have time to carry the load of running the household smoothly.  I barely keep up!  But I love the opportunity to more carefully plan for meals and errands and laundry and summertime gardening.

Back then, I volunteered a lot at my local church.  I played the piano for services, organized everything musical, and even sat on the church board as clerk.  

Now, I haven't managed to volunteer at my new church much.  I frequently travel with my husband's music groups, and I was asked today to play the piano for a children's Sabbath school when I can.  I'm excited to re-enter the church-involvement part of my life back then that I loved so much.

Back then, I wondered if God was planning to unite my life to a husband.

Now, I see how brilliant His plan really was, and my appreciation for His leading and the man He put in my life daily grows.

Back then, I lived in a little rented three-bedroom house across the street from my office.  It had two apartments in the basement, and some flower beds out front that I used for my vegetable and flower garden.

Now, I live in a bigger house {my husband keeps saying we should fill it up with children...} that has a wonderful kitchen and a great big garden out back.  Rather than a busy street out front, we have a quiet neighborhood to live in, and an orchard behind our large back yard and garden.

Back then, I was within four driving hours of my parents and brother.

Now, I am thousands of miles away from my family AND my in-laws.  {Sometimes sacrifices must be made to follow the will of God and work in the harvest fields.}

Back then, I didn't dream of getting any more education.  Life was providing me with enough of that.

Now, I am blessed to have my master's degree.  I would have been the last one to guess it, but I'm grateful every day for the learning, experiences, and people God put in my life via graduate school.

Back then, I didn't have a camera, and I didn't include many photos in my sporadic posts.

Now, my goal is to invite  you here for new words and photos more and more often, with a constant desire to grow as a woman of God, as well as to bless you, my readers.  

Thank you for stopping by today for a visit.  I hope you'll stick around for my next five  years!

20 January 2013

Something Written Just for Me

You've had that experience.  You pick up a book, or something inspired, or the Bible itself.  You read right along, everything making a distant sort of sense, and it happens.

The words jump out at you as if someone knew your innermost self ~ needs, desires, fears, joys ~ and right then, every word is just for YOU.

It happened to me this evening.  I saw how I like to have my all under control.  I saw how God has tested me and taught me to trust more deeply.  I saw how I still need to learn that I dare not rely on myself for what I need (but on Jesus instead).  I saw how well He knows my heart.

"Many have such a constant care for themselves that they give God no opportunity to care for them.  If they should be a little short at times, and be brought into strait places, it would be the best thing for their faith.  If they would calmly trust God, and wait for Him to work for them, their necessity would be God's opportunity; and His blessing in their emergency would increase their love for Him, and lead them to prize their temporal blessings in a higher sense than they have ever done before.". (Testimonies for the Church vol. 2 p. 657)

I look over my experience during the last few years, and see how the hand of God has been doing just that for me, for my naturally-worrisome heart.

And I praise Him, right now, publicly, for what He has done and is doing to help me grow.

18 January 2013

Day is Dying in the West

When I was a little girl, we sang the same song every Friday night.  Dad sang the same beautiful harmonies, and I never could figure out how he could hear the extra notes and find them with his voice.  (I’m finally learning.)

The calm of sunset, the house freshly cleaned, a delicious (and often easy, crockpot) supper always seemed to speak Sabbath peace to my young heart.

Will you join me this Sabbath, in the peace?

Day is dying in the west,
Heav’n is touching earth with rest.
Wait, and worship, while the night
Sets her evening lamps alight
Through all the sky.

Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God of hosts,
Heaven and earth are full of Thee,
Heaven and earth are praising Thee,
O Lord, most high.

Lord of life, beneath the dome
Of the universe, Thy home,
Gather us who seek Thy face
In the fold of Thy embrace,
For Thou art nigh.


While the deepening shadows fall,
Heart of love, enfolding all,
Thro’ the glory and the grace
Of the stars that veil Thy face,
Our hearts ascend.


When forever from our sight
Pass the stars, the day, the night,
Lord of angels, on our eyes
Let eternal morning rise,
And shadows end.


{Did you notice the poetry?  How the rhyme scheme was so well-crafted, and yet not stiff?  Each verse has an AABBC rhyme structure, which is easy to spot.  But the fun thing I JUST NOW noticed?  The “C” line in verses one and two rhymes, as does the “C” in verses three and four, which makes a rhyme scheme entirely made up of couplets.  I know.  You thought that was genius, too.}

--Day is Dying in the West, text by Mary A. Lathbury; tune CHAUTAUQUA by William F. Sherwin; SDA Hymnal number 51.

17 January 2013

Two Unexpected Friends

I think I forgot to show you my two unlikely friends from an afternoon summer walk.  Would you have thought this little fawn would have wandered over near the heron?  I didn't.  Then when I was trying to take a  photo of the fawn, I realized someone else was also in the frame.  I thought they were sweet together.

16 January 2013

Someone Had a Good Time in the Woods

They even built themselves a little shelter, whoever they were.  I loved, loved, loved doing those things when I was a child.

15 January 2013


Twice in the last few days, my husband and I attempted sunrise dates.  With sunrise at 7:30 a.m., it's not like we had to get up very early to see the show.
And it was fun.  Just the two of us, out on the overlook enjoying the view.  At least as romantic as watching the sunset.

12 January 2013

A New Ear

"And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.  And Jesus answered and said, 'Suffer ye thus far.'  And He touched his ear, and healed him."  Luke 22:50, 51

Did you ever wonder what happened to the man whose ear was cut off and then healed?  Or if his ear was put back on, or whether Jesus touched his gaping wound and made him a new ear on the spot?

Maybe the man became a disciple that night, a servant of the true High Priest.  Maybe the compassion Jesus had for His enemy changed a heart that night.

But we don't know.  What if the man's heart stayed old and full of darkness, while his ear alone was made new?  What if he went on to witness the trial of Jesus, new ear closed to Him, old mouth open in insults to the One who recreated his body and could recreate his heart?

What if he experienced the healing, creative power of Jesus, and turned away, taking for granted the ear made new?

Then the question arises, even while our minds tell us we would have turned in thankful praise to the Healer, are we enjoying the blessings poured out by our Creator without turning our hearts toward Him to soak up the sunshine of His love?

Are we letting our God have and work through our lives?  Are we returning our whole lives to Him?

In reality, our whole lives are a pittance in comparison with the matchless love He has shed on us.

11 January 2013

The First Flowers

Almost five years ago, when I first started blogging, a friend ran a series on her blog called "Wildflowers in Winter."  Near the end, if I recall, she hosted a hunt to see which of her readers could find the first wildflower blooming in spring.

She invited me along on her hunt, and a cloudy spring day found my friend, her two children, and me in the middle of a brown field between the highway and a hotel, searching for spots of purple.

And find them we did.  I even drew one, with my limited skills.

So today, when I saw the first tiny flowers poking out of the grass, I remembered my friend with fond delight.

09 January 2013

Dramatic Sky

5 Things I'm Grateful My Husband Did for Me Today

Sorry for the long title.  I went for descriptive instead of efficient.  This post is out here because sometimes I think it's easy to forget the many, many things our husbands do for us every day.  I want to recognize just a few.

1.  Built a fire to warm the house.
2.  Rinsed his dishes after each meal.  I'm forgetting to rinse my own, and mine are harder to wash.
3.  Made our bed.
4.  Gave me a kiss goodbye after lunch.  Aren't we blessed to have lunch together almost every day?
5.  Thanked me for doing the daily chores that I do.
6.  Ok, I know I said five.  But he also made his delicious tomato-onion-avocado "salsa" for lunch.  :)

08 January 2013

Clashing Cymbals

"If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal." 1 Corinthians 13:1, New American Bible

Cymbals are great if they're played at the right time.  But if not?

Well, I know that the word "clashing" in this version is meant to mean the sound the cymbal makes, but it makes me think of when the cymbal doesn't play in the right place.  Usually everyone knows it, and that's not when you want to be the cymbal player.

Or think of all the kinds of music that really don't need cymbals.  Like nocturnes, lullabies, romantic mood music.  A clashing cymbal there would REALLY clash.  You wouldn't want to be the cymbal player who ruined those moments, either.

But that's how out-of-place and truly humiliating before God it is to try to do His work without His love.
I don't want that to be me.

Photo:  Don't stand under slanted metal roofs this time of year.  That could potentially be painful and humiliating, too.

04 January 2013

Pointing You to a Friend

Hello, again, readers!

I just happily discovered that a dear friend is posting fun things from Guam on her blog.  I hope you have a chance to click over to visit her!

How to Keep a Bedroom Looking Clean

Notice I said "looking" clean.  Because the thing is, even if we're most or full-time homemakers, life gets busy, and it can be hard to keep the clutter down.

Bedrooms are lived-in space, and if you share a bedroom, the other occupants might not share your idea of clean.  Yet a clean bedroom is a haven, and an important one to protect.  Here are four simple things I {try to} do every day to keep the mess from getting overwhelming.

Make the bed every day.  In my room, the bed is the largest uninterrupted space.  If I keep it made every day, the largest space in the room stays free of clutter.  You can see I don’t do a lot with extra pillows, so making the bed each morning takes less than five minutes.  I make the bed, choose my clothes for the day and lay them on top, and then shower.  That way, it doesn’t hang over my head when I feel like I should already be on the go.  {You'll notice mine isn't perfect.  But it's done.}

Close the closet doors every time you’ve opened them.  And many times, even if you’re not the one who opened them.  No matter how organized your closet is, it gives the eye a lot more to look at.  The room looks simpler with the doors shut, and if you’ve decorated the room (like I haven’t yet—only a few months since we got into the house), keeping the doors closed keeps the focus on the atmosphere you’ve created.

Don’t use the tops of your dressers to store the mail.  Or anything else.  Decorate them however simply or detailed you want, but don’t put anything extra on the dressers in the room.  If the dresser tops are pretty—or at least neat—it’s another place in the room where your eyes find rest.  Right now, my dressers are a bit randomly decorated, but most of the surface is clear, so it helps the room keep a clean look.  Fresh flowers from the yard and garden in the summer are a nice touch.  {You'll see a sort of random gathering of items on mine.  1.  They're not totally random to me.  2.  I haven't really decided how to decorate our room yet because the non-neutral color they painted the house just before we moved in is throwing me off.}

Put your dirty clothes inside the laundry hamper inside the closet with the doors closed every day.  You really don’t want piles anywhere, and this  helps oh-so-much.  It feels easy to step out of clothes and into bed, but then there’s a pile to clean up the next morning.  Even if the pile takes thirty seconds to put away, it’s one more thing to do before you start the day.  {I haven't done this yet today...but I WILL!}

03 January 2013

How to Write a Meaningful Thank-you Note

Do you thrive on words of affirmation, like my mom and husband do?  Or do you have friends and family who would work for compliments no matter how small the paycheck?  Chances are, there are people in your life whose love language is words of affirmation, and your relationship with them would become more profound by a simple expression of your appreciation.

What about that acts-of-service person who has been doing simple but amazing things for you for a decade?  They might wonder if you notice their love in motion, or if their love-deeds are just another mundane thing in your day.

You might have a friend who sends the sweetest gifts at the right time, every time, the friend who never forgets, but sends you tangible love to remind you you're in her thoughts.

Or the friend who gives time to help you with canning, or packing for a move, or cutting wood for a cost-free warm winter home?

Maybe you’ve thanked them with words, out loud, but maybe it’s time for a written record of your gratitude.  

If you’re like me, you grew up in a home where your mother encouraged you to write thank-you notes for everything.  Maybe you also have a mother who writes the kind of thank-you notes that people keep for their whole lives, but who thinks her notes are kept not so much because they are amazing (I’m guessing they are), but also because not enough people write thank-you notes.

Whether the art of the thank-you note is new to you, or whether you just need some new ideas to freshen up your thank-you notes, here are my thoughts on how to make them meaningful.


What to say in a meaningful thank-you note

  • Always be specific.  Don't make the recipient wonder if you sent the note to the right person.
  • When you’re writing a thank-you for a gift, mention the gift specifically, and write a sentence or two about how you've used and enjoyed the gift.  ExampleI’ve enjoyed the flowers you sent so much.  I’ve been longing for spring, and these were just the spot of color I needed on a cold winter day.
  • When you’re writing a thank-you note for money, tell the giver what you plan to do or what you’ve done with the money they gave.  ExampleThank you for the check you sent.  I’m excited to put it toward the fabric I need to finish my quilt.  I can’t wait to send you a picture when it’s finished.
  • Follow those principles for writing thank-you notes for acts of service.
  • Mention something you love and appreciate about the person.  Example:  The way you're always ready to spend time on the people you love is such an inspiration to me, and you've inspired me to be more available to the people I love as well.
  • Tell the person a few things that are happening in your life, especially if it’s a relative or friend you don’t connect with often.  Example:  Remember that rose garden we visited together last summer?  I just took my mom there, and she loved it just as much as you did.

Thoughtful presentation

  • Keep pretty paper (appropriate for masculine and feminine recipients) on hand, so you don’t delay your note by needing to go to the right store and find the right thing.
  • Hand-written notes, sent through the mail, are becoming a rarity.  Your thank-you notes in your own handwriting will therefore send not only your thanks, but that the gift or act prompting the note was meaningful enough to you to invest the time in energy in writing a classy note.
  • And do make sure you spell the recipient's name correctly!
Sometimes we have no idea what effort may have prompted a gift or action we're thankful for.

My mom tells the story of a time when a piano solo played for special music in church was especially a blessing to her.  She didn’t know the woman playing, but she happened to come sit down right in front of us when she was finished playing. 

This was her chance!  She found a bulletin insert with a blank side, wrote a note (in church, no less!), and passed it to the woman sitting in front of her.  It read something like this:

“Thank you for your beautiful music.  I heard your heart, and was blessed.”

Having read the note, the woman in front of us burst into tears and left the sanctuary.

We heard more of the story later.  The woman’s husband had derided her musical ability for many years.  He was away that weekend, and a friend had convinced her to play at church.  When she read the note, years of pain and hurt were partly washed away by a simple compliment.

Putting your thanks in writing may have a more profound effect on someone you love, or even a perfect stranger (like in the story above), than you realize.