When All You Want to Do is Hide

So this is what my blog looks like, I almost forgot!! It’s been a while… 😉

April and May are whirlwind months every year for me, but this year they have flown by before I can even catch a breath. Two state competitions for my piano students, three piano recitals, field trips with Kali, programs for my elementary music classes…the calendar on the fridge is full. Probably most of you can relate!

But tonight is Saturday night and Abe is working so I get to blog a little. 🙂

I thought I’d share with you what I wrote in my journal today. I’m not sure what to categorize it as–stepmom stuff, family life, what-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong… but I had a “moment” today. So here’s how it happened, straight from my heart. (And journal.)

This morning: RAIN. GO AWAY.

We’ve had rain for like two weeks straight here where I live. Once again, it’s Saturday morning and raining. And I WANT to go to yard sales!! I had plans this morning to take Kali (my step daughter) and Sophia (my 1 year old niece we are watching this weekend) down to West Chester to go to a big community yard sale with my mom and sister, who is up from Virginia. So I get the little girls and myself ready, pack our backpacks with every possible thing that might placate any temper tantrums, and make sure everyone has raincoats on and hoods up. We trudged out in the rain to my car. To find that my sister-in-law forgot to put Sophia’s car seat in my car the night before. (My kind heart doesn’t blame her. She’s busy and has tons of other things to remember. My inconvenienced brain wants to scream.) I plop Sophia on my lap and drive the couple feet to my in-laws house right behind ours. They’re away on vacation, but surely they have an extra car seat around somewhere. Nope.

Poor little Sophia had to ride in Kali’s car seat  and Kali got to be a big girl and use only a seat belt. And my angel mother went out as soon as I called her and found me a baby car seat for $5 at a yard sale. (Have I ever mentioned that she is the best mom in the world? She is!)

So then we go yard-saling in the rain, and it’s OK. I mean not exactly relaxing and no stress, but it was fun.

We got back home around 2pm, and both girls fell asleep in the car. Yay–nap time! We literally didn’t do too much for a few hours. Straightened up here and there, Abe and I watched a show and ate food…a nice lazy rainy Saturday! Not for long.

The girls got up, and I decided since the rain had cleared and it was nice out that I should take our indoor cucumber and pepper plants out and plant them in our garden. The ground was still wet and soft, and I really don’t know anything about gardening but it seemed like a good idea. So Kali, Sophia and I got to enjoy some time outside. I planted our little sprouts and Kali and Sophia ran around collecting dandelion wishes. It was beautiful. When I was done planting we stayed out for a while, playing on the swings, Kali being a big helper and pushing Sophia in the baby swing. Abe came out and got to swing with us for a few minutes before leaving for work.

Can I just say….

WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAPPEN AFTER YOUR HUSBAND LEAVES FOR WORK??

When he’s home, we’re a beautiful little family. Swinging on the playground. Planting a garden. The kids are happy and love him.

Then. He leaves. And chaos decides it’s time to hit. Because now it’s just mom home! (Oddly, I remember that feeling as a kid. Dad leaves, and it’s like OK we can party now, it’s just mom. What goes around comes around…)

Anyway, literally minutes after Abe’s car goes out of sight, and just as I was about to suggest we go inside and get their baths for church tomorrow, my in-laws dog somehow got loose and came bounding and barking into our back yard. His name’s Boone for future reference. Boone is a medium sized, loud, energetic type dog. (In case I forgot to mention, it had just rained for two weeks. Our yard is basically a giant mud puddle.) Boone proceeded to get myself and the two girls very muddy. I can handle cleaning up mud. But I know this dog, and I know that trying to grab him to take him back inside is next to impossible. I’ve been at their house plenty of times when there’s two or three people trying to corner Boone and grab his collar. The in-laws are away, I’ve got two little girls and a mud puddle, and I just groaned at the thought of trying to take care of Boone. I gave myself lots of excuses why I should just ignore it and let him stay out all night. But I ended up going the responsible route.

I left Sophia and Kali playing and chased Boone back through the trail and trees to his house. Where naturally it was impossible to get a hold of him. While I’m trying to get Boone to come, sit, stay, etc. I heard Kali yelling “Mommy!!” and Sophia wailing. Ughh. I left Boone and ran back to our yard. At this point I don’t even care about my mud splashed jeans. As soon as I’m in sight Sophia stops crying. Kali sweetly calls, “Never mind, Mom!” Grrrrr! Since I was running, Boone got excited and ran with me back to our house, and somehow was just sitting there with all three of us. I grabbed his collar, called Abe’s cellphone, and he decided Boone was staying at our house tonight. Yay. He’s currently downstairs with a mat and water and the door closed.

But chaos isn’t done quite yet. Now we have to get through bath time. Kali was so excited to have Sophia play with her bath toys too. I got muddy clothes off both girls, and picked Sophia up to put her in the tub while Kali was climbing in herself. Sophia chose the moment her feet touched the water to stand still and poop. Right in our soapy clean water-filled bathtub. AAAAUGGGHH. Can my shift be over? Isn’t it someone else’s turn? Abe come back!!!

I cleaned up the tub. Refilled it. Shampooed Kali’s hair for church. Got both girls in their jammies, and was literally hanging on by a thread for bed time. And it dawned on me we never ate dinner. *Inhale.* Crackers, bananas, and milk. We can do this. Then it’s bed time.

FINALLY. The girls were fed, bathed, clothed, clean. I gave Sophia her binky and blanket and rocked her in the rocking chair next to the crib for a few minutes while Kali was in the bathroom finishing up brushing her teeth. I started humming the song that Pappap sings to all of his grandchildren when he puts them in bed.

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.”

I didn’t even get past that first line. Because there in the dark room, Sophia cuddled up on me in the rocking chair, with the fan blowing to give her noise to sleep to, I had a moment with God. Lord all I want to do is hide. Hide from the stress, from the problems, from the chaos. Let me hide myself in Thee. Please! Cleft for me. God made a spot for me. For when the hassle is too much, when I need to hide. The Rock of Ages is my Rock to hide in, my place of refuge. It made me think of one of my favorite verses in Psalms, “Lead me to that rock that is higher than I.” 

Kali came bounding in from brushing her teeth and heard me humming. I asked her if she would sing it for me. She sang the first verse perfectly and beautifully, and my whole aggravated heart melted into a thankful spirit. Thankful for the old hymns. For almost-bed-times. For Kali and Sophia.

Thankful that my God lets me hide in Him, the Rock of Ages, when I can’t even make it to bed time.

Both girls are sleeping now. I have a blog post written. Abe will be home again soon! 🙂

I hope you have had a good Saturday too. EVEN if it involved frustrating circumstances. 😉

Until the next time I drop by….

❤ Flossie

 

 

MineCraft in Piano Lessons

Why?

Have you heard of the popular app called “Minecraft”?? It was nominated as the Kid’s Choice Award for favorite video game earlier this year. I first heard about the game when one of my students somehow decided that in between playing her scales was a perfect time to tell me all about it in detail. (Don’t ya love those moments??)  I heard about it here and there after that, until out of curiosity, I asked every single student I saw in the week if they had heard of, played, or possessed the game Minecraft. I was somewhat shocked to find that out of my forty-nine piano students, only one had never heard of it, and only three others did not have it on one or more of their devices, but had played it at a friend’s house. I started to realize quickly that this little popular app was a key point of interest to all of my students. Filed that fact away in my mind and didn’t think any more about it.

Until this past January. When I myself was bored to death of piano lessons, and I know my kids had to be too. There’s something about January-February when the Christmas music is over and our Christmas recital is passed that frankly makes learning the piano not super fun. I remember having a conversation about this with Abe recently. He works a 7am-3pm job every day, every week, no breaks except for a few weeks vacation. Can you imagine?? I know that is typical for many. But for this school teacher, I just can’t imagine doing the same thing every day with no spring breaks, spirit days, summer vacation, field days, field trips, etc. I LOVE my job, and am living the “dream” in a way, in that I have always wanted to be a music and piano teacher. That being said…it has it’s moments. 😉 And during those cold winter months after Christmas, I told Abe that I don’t think I want to be a piano teacher anymore. I told him I didn’t think I was good at it anymore, that it had gotten old, I didn’t like it, and maybe I missed my calling. He un-sympathetically laughed at me. I remember trying to impress on him the seriousness of my dilemma! I wasn’t enjoying my dream anymore! His answer: “Join the Club.” Thanks a lot. We had a whole conversation about how work is not always fun. Even when it’s something you love. Abe told me I’m growing up so fast. 😛

So what do you do when you’re bored, tired of the monotony, and lacking excitement for something you love? If you’re like me, you don’t like dying of boredom. So it’s time to make our own excitement! That is when an idea started forming in my head based on the fact that all of my students love MineCraft. That is exciting, right? Why can’t piano lessons be as exciting as MineCraft??

So How?

I found out they can be as exciting! I worked on this idea for one month before introducing it to my students. I named it “PianoCraft.”  🙂 It took me a little while to sort out the details and organization in my head–like how to make it work physically in a classroom instead of on an iPad, what the rewards would be, and how to incorporate musical concepts. But once I decided on what I wanted, the game itself was SO easy. (For those of you who don’t know what MineCraft is–it is a virtual world with grass/trees/animals/sky etc. where you use bricks, trees, stones, straw, and basically every material you can think of to “build” your own world. It is actually very complex, and my students understand it better than me. I had one student asking me how they could get diamonds in PianoCraft. Umm…there’s no diamonds in PianoCraft this year. Just decided.)

Details

Anyway, the general concept of Piano Craft was to complete musical tasks related to the piano in order to get bricks to build with. For instance, one of my tasks was to play through your scale routine perfectly, without any mistakes in any scale. The student would then get four bricks for completing that task. You can see a whole list of the tasks and number of bricks assigned to each one here: PianoCraft Bricks (PDF file).

Then I just laminted blank sheets of white paper. (Can you get any easier??) I did add clipart to the bottom of the white paper before printing it out–green grass. That’s about it. 🙂 Then I put each student’s name at the top of one piece of paper. I sticky-tacked these up on my studio wall, and wa-la, each student had a blank world to build on. Then came the one hard part…I bought big brick-designed scrapbook paper on sale at AC Moore. Then, believe it or not, I cut out every little tiny 1/2 inch brick that would fill my “Bricks” Jar. As students earned bricks, I would put sticky-tack on the back and let them place the bricks anywhere on their “world.” I have some interesting designs going on! 🙂

Prizes

I decided on three prizes. 1st Place goes to the student with the most bricks. The reward is an ice cream sundae in the lesson while we watch an old comedy of pianist/comedian Victor Borge. (They ALL want the ice cream and movie prize!) Second place goes to the student with the 2nd most bricks. I will bring in cupcakes for that prize. And third, I will give a King-sized candy bar to the student with the most creative design on their world. Pretty simple, easy, and so fun!

My game/contest runs from March-April. I have some very competitive students, I’m finding out. Meanwhile, the lessons are much more exciting as the students can’t wait to show me the tasks they have completed and get their bricks. I’m excited to see who wins, and I have no idea how I am going to pick most creative. I have a student re-creating Stonehenge, another designing a mustache, and even a page with a very recognizable bunny shape.

Results

This game has taught me more about this generation that I am teaching. My students are smart, and “Candy if you practice five days!” doesn’t always cut it with them. They understand complex games, concepts, and rules. They are thriving in this PianoCraft game that I can barely understand myself. In complimenting one of my second grade girls on her design, I related that I had tried to build something with the bricks and it didn’t look good. She responded, “Well, I’m just really good at pixelated art.

I’m pretty sure I had no clue what a pixel even was when I was in 2nd grade!! 

I have found that these kids love, enjoy, and even need a challenge that makes them think. Using paper bricks on plain paper to create a picture (which has nothing to do with piano) stimulates their creativity in a way that just sitting at a piano doesn’t always do. I’ve noticed that their lesson songs go smoother and faster, and each student has risen to the challenges of each task. I have thought of ways that I could improve the game too, adding in more elements from the actual app. (For instance, making a “survival” track and “creative” track, having more materials than just bricks, and designating some lessons as “Night-time.”) And my students are already asking me what game I’m going to do next year. One suggested doing a Mario theme. Oh my. I’m going to have a lot to live up to. At least I won’t die of boredom staring at the clock. 🙂

 

Are you a teacher who has created any kind of game for your students? How did it go? I would love to hear about it! Let me know if you try MineCraft and how you make it work for you!

❤ Flossie

minecraft game wall

Students’ “Worlds” displayed on the wall. This was the first week of the game–the designs are much bigger now! 

 

 

Learning To Love, FRIENDS (Week 2)

Valentine’s Day has come and gone! Naturally, I got behind on posting weekly about my Learning to Love Study. 😉 So…even though the holiday is officially over, I will still finish out the four weeks of the Learning to Love Bible Study.

Before I get into that, though, I have to tell you about our exciting Valentine’s weekend! Abe, Kali, and I had a beautiful weekend celebrating, and I got a very special present on Saturday. For years, I have been saying I will get my ears pierced. Like for the first time. Once I was finally old enough that my parents would let me get them done, I had lost all desire. I wasn’t big into earrings, and the thought of a needle stabbing my earlobe wasn’t worth it to me. By the time I got to college and was in a dorm full of ear-pierced girls, the idea was starting to grow on me. I kept thinking that one of these days I’ll just go get it done.

College came and went, and I still hadn’t found enough courage to do it yet. My sister, Tricia, also had never pierced her ears, and was begging me to go with her. (You would think by the time we’re in our twenties we could be independent of each other…but nope.) I told her we would both go get it done whenever the first one of us got engaged, so we could wear beautiful earrings at the wedding. Thenn…my wedding came and went. I just cannot find the desire to willingly get TWO needles. Now Kali (my step-daughter) is turning five and is also begging me to get hers pierced. Her father…my ABRAHAM…told her she can’t have her ears pierced unless Mom does. (He did that on purpose!) Honestly, I could probably go my whole life without pierced ears and not care too much. I think Abe and Tricia were both finally understanding that, because they came up with a secret “surprise” for me. Abe’s Valentine’s gift to Tricia, Kali, and me was to take us all to the mall and get our ears pierced. I think he knew if it was a romantic “gift” from him I wouldn’t be able to turn it down! 😉 So I now, FINALLY, have pierced ears. And believe me, I did not like those needles. Kali went first, and was amazingly brave. No tears, and only one grimace when the needles went in. Great, now I have to be brave. Then Tricia was second, because I was hyperventilating. (I’m serious.) She was SO calm and didn’t even blink her eyes! Finally it was my turn. If you could have only heard the battle going on in my mind. “You have to do this–No I don’t.  You want to do this–Yeah…not really. Abe just paid money for this–Ok I’ll do it. It won’t hurt–YES IT WILL. You’ll be able to wear earrings–So what. Kali said she’ll hold your hand…she is on cloud nine looking in the mirror–Ok I’ll do it.” 

Somehow I managed to sit still until they shot those little studs in my ears. It wasn’t too bad, and I can honestly say I am excited about the earrings I’ll be able to wear. I admitted to Abe I’m glad I did it, even glad that he cornered me into it! ❤

 

I’ve been continuing with my Learning to Love Bible Study by Darlene Schacht. (For a link to her study see my last post Learning to Love Week 1.) This week we studied the friendship type of love.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen or done any other study on love between friends. Somehow the other types of love seem more important. Love for your spouse, love for family, love for God and His Word/ministry seem to all overshadow any type of friendship love. But there are tons of stories about faithful friends throughout the Bible. Jesus called Himself our “friend that sticks closer than a brother.” Growing up next-door to a family with kids the same age as all of the kids in my family, I have always treasured the verse in Proverbs “Better is a neighbor that is near, than a brother that is far off.” Friends are important!

God valued friendships enough to teach about and give examples of them in His Word. This week I’ve enjoyed learning about some of the famous friendships in the Bible. Here’s what I learned about friendship love this week:

  1. Love speaks up, stands up, and shows up for its friends. (David and Jonathon)
  2. Love cares for friends even when they hurt you. (Job)
  3. Love is faithful to friends at their lowest points. (David and Ittai)
  4. Love generously thinks of the comfort of others. (David and Ittai)

I’ve added more prayer requests in my notebook this week. I can think of some friends right now that can relate to one or more of these points. I have a friend that I could speak up for right now; a friend that I can forgive and care for even though they have hurt me; a friend that is going through a hard time; and in general I can always think of the other person first and what might make them more comfortable.

Do you have friend situations in your mind right now that you need to be a faithful friend in? I’m inspired to love my friends more, and be the friend God wants me to be.

Hope you are enjoying this snowy February! Hard to believe March is right around the corner. Don’t forget to go stock up on Valentine’s Candy that’s on sale this week! 🙂

Love,

❤ Flossie

Learning to Love Week 1

February is here. Officially almost one week ago. How did that happen? So much for blogging once a week. (Sorry!) I’ll start being realistic and try for once a month…

Since this is the month for love and Valentine’s Day and all that, my mom printed and gave me Darlene Schacht’s Learning to Love 4-week Bible Study. It’s in a pretty pink folder, and she gave me a small pink 3×5 notebook with it, so naturally I was excited to get started. 😀 (P.S.–A Christian bookstore was going out of business near me, and I got a beautiful pink Bible for half price! I was so excited. If you are one of those people who hate pink…I apologize. I might put a picture up though. 😉 )

I thought I would share what I’ve been learning from it this past week. What I love about this Bible study is it is very open-ended. The questions aren’t the specific, fill-in-the-blank type questions that you find in most Bible Studies online. (Ex. “How many times was the word love mentioned in this passage?”). She divides the studies by types of love–Storge, Philia, Eros, and Agape. This first week has been all about Storge, or the natural affection between family members. She simply puts the day, Bible passage, and main characters at the top of the page, and then asks two questions.

  1. What is the main concept, or what is God telling you?
  2. How can you apply this to the way you love others?

I love that set-up! At first, I was a little thrown off. You ask me to read fifteen verses and then tell you the main concept?? Isn’t that like what we did in Doctrines class in college, except we always had some type of hint based on the notes? So I was stuck, academically trying to figure out what the main concept was. I even thought about cheating by using my study Bible to read the footnotes about the main concepts. But as I kept doing it each day, it was easier to see what the main idea was that God was trying to get across to me.

This week can be summed up for me in one main idea, actually.

Love cares for others first, no matter the circumstance. 

The verses I read this week illustrated over and over again how family members sacrificed, hurt, and surrendered their rights for the ones they loved. What stuck out to me most was how in almost each story, love was shown in the most dire circumstances. Here’s a few examples.

I learned from…

  • Jochebed that love is creative, determined, and will always find a way.
  • The un-named mother in Solomon’s kingdom that love is more important than being right or winning an argument. She was willing to surrender all her rights to the child in order for her baby to live.
  • Naomi that love grieves for and wants the best for others, even when it’s own grief is greater.
  • Ruth that love chooses the hard and difficult road over the easy way out. 

That’s just from this first week! I’m so looking forward to the next three weeks of February. If you’re interested in downloading this free Bible study, here is the link to her site and the study: Learning to Love Bible Study.

I am using the small pink notebook as my personal prayer book. (I already have a prayer notebook that I write down a lot of requests in…honestly, I have about two or three of those. I write down my prayer list, and then lose it…and write another one, and find the old one… I really am trying to have a more consistent prayer life. Now I need to find a consistent spot so I don’t lose all my stuff!) 🙂

Anyway…this little pink notebook is prayer requests that I have for myself, for God to change my heart. I wouldn’t normally share what’s in my prayer notebook, but what I have written down has helped me so much regarding the Bible study. Each day I only wrote one prayer request–basically the words in bold above. For instance, the second one in my notebook is that I would “give up my rights and trust God to fight for me.” I’ve found that writing just short statements from what I’ve learned, and praying it every day along with any others I add, has helped me remember what I learn each day. Many times I do a Bible study and feel like I am drinking from a fire hydrant–I can’t remember from one day to the next what I have learned, because I am learning so much! Praying this way has been a huge blessing to me and a way to remember the main idea of what I learned the day before. Just FYI, something that helped me. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed learning second-hand through this Bible study. Maybe you will have time to read it yourself soon! And maybe I will have time to blog again soon. 😉

Next week I turn 26! And Abe is taking Kali and I to get our ears pierced for Valentine’s Day. Since it’s part of my “present” I guess I have no way of chickening out this time. Besides, Tricia is coming too and she and Kali are dying to get theirs pierced so I will be brave for them… Speaking of low-pain tolerance, at the end of this month I will be getting all four of my wisdom teeth removed. They are almost all in and impacted and facing every which direction, so it will not be fun. Abe is also getting his four out–we are both going in at the same day and time. We must be out of our minds, I know. 😉 Kali already agreed to be our nurse for the weekend! (Just kidding…she will probably spend the night with her cousins and we will sleep away our misery, while texting our moms to bring us ice cream and pudding! What a romantic end to February that will be…)

Happy Early Valentine’s Day!

Love,

Flossie ❤

bible study

 

 

Miracles and Broken Vessels

I love this song at the end of her post. Read the words–the “child once crippled” who walks now: I always think of my Kali! From being told she would never be able to sit up, to running and walking in a normal school setting. God is powerful, and miracles do happen! 🙂 Happy Monday!

thepassionategirl

treasure

Miracles and Broken Vessels

     For the year of 2016, I decided to focus on one word a month. In December of 2015, I wrote down multiple words that I want to study from the Bible and I chose 12: one for each month of the year. As a teacher, I glanced through the Bible curriculum that I will be teaching up until May, just to see if there were any words that could coincide with what I will be teaching. I found that at the end of January, I will be teaching about miracles and I immediately knew what word I was going to study in January. Miracles.

      As someone who sees the world through rose-colored glasses, I think that not only is my entire life a miracle, but also little events that happen throughout the days, I categorize as “Miracles.” For instance, I woke…

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Sunday Situations (True Stories from a Church Pianist)

Church music.

The venue that gives a musician the most experience and the most inconvenience; the most encouragement, and the most anguish; and the most opportunities to mess up a whole service.

The church pianist and organist (in a traditional worship service at least) hold the power to turn a serious, worshipful service into a laughable circus act. I have seen it done before, and I have unfortunately contributed to it myself, too.

For example, have you ever stood up with your hymnbook ready to sing out a strong “I Sing The Mighty Power of God,” only to have the organist come in at a different key than the piano? The single notes in that beginning phrase is a nightmare to start out in different keys. At least other hymns have chords that blend in the wrong notes…

One time I used the offering prayer to put my big, bulky offertory notebook up on the piano rack. Unfortunately, as I was pulling the heavy thing up from the floor, I accidentally bumped it too hard on the music rack and the entire rack crashed down onto the soundboard. In the quietness of the prayer, the crash seemed to just echo through the entire building. More than one jumped at the noise, including the usher praying. From a startling crash to an usher’s voice cracking…there wasn’t much recovering from that. 😉

Another time I managed to sit (yes–SIT.) on the piano keys as I was heading back to my seat in the audience. It’s another whole blog post to explain how that happened…but just know that a lot more notes are played when you sit on the keys, than when you accidentally bump the keys with your fingers.

There was the time I forgot my choir music and the whole church waited five minutes while I ran back to the choir room to grab an extra copy. There was another time when I brought the wrong choir music and began the introduction, only to stop when the director stopped directing to stare at me in confusion. Five minutes later, I was back with the right music. 😀

Oh, and did I mention the time I forgot to come back to play for the choir all together? We have two morning services, and I play for both. I sit through the whole first morning service, then leave for my Sunday School Class after the choir sings in the second service. Except for that one Sunday–I just went to Sunday School right away and completely forgot about playing in the second service.  Halfway through Sunday School I had a heart attack and grabbed Abe’s arm with a death grip. I whispered in a panic, “I FORGOT TO GO BACK TO THE SECOND SERVICE AND PLAY FOR CHOIR!” His eyes got big for a minute and then he laughed and laughed. Ohh welll…. The pink slip’s coming! 😉

My final and most mortifying mistake regarding church music took place one summer at my grandparents’ church in Marcus Hook. The majority of members in their church are elderly, and the pianist had some type of health problem making her unable to play for a while. I was home on break from college, and my Mommom asked if I could come a couple Sundays to help out with the piano playing. Everything went great for the most part. Then one Sunday they had a special speaker—-an older, white-haired, distinguished-looking preacher. I played the hymns and offertory then sat with my grandparents. Then.. the preaching started. Maybe it was how late I stayed up the night before, or maybe it was the mono-syllable flow of his voice and lack of main points. (I have to admit…I am used to hand-outs with lots of fill-ins, exciting illustrations, and PowerPoint presentations that display the main points of a sermon…) Anyway, whatever the reason, I found myself slightly day-dreaming and spacey…my mind was everywhere except the service. I could tell it was going to be a long morning as the message seemed to go on and on. I was ready for him to say  a final “Let’s Pray” so I could go  play the invitation song softly in the background while he invited sinners to be saved. Then my job would be done and I could go get lunch. Finally, I heard those relieving words: “Let’s Pray.” I glanced at my phone and was shocked to see that only twenty minutes had passed. Wow! We lucked out today–a short message! I quickly headed up to the piano and began playing “Just As I Am” as beautifully and emotionally as I could.

Suddenly, I heard the special speaker ending his prayer without an invitation. I started playing even quieter than before, suspicion forming in my mind that maybe I missed something… I glanced at the schedule of the service on my right…Yes, this is the right song. There’s no special announcements at the end, so I think this is right… Maybe I should have went to bed earlier last night, why does my brain feel like it’s in such a fog? Then, the speaker said “Amen,” and turned to stare directly at me. I continued playing softer and then just awkwardly faded out and stopped playing. Why my brain could not grasp the situation, I do not know, but I was still sitting there confused when the preacher smiled and said, “Young lady, that sounded beautiful, but that was just my opening prayer after my introduction. I’ve still got a whole sermon to go before we sing that song.” Twitters of laughter spread throughout the congregation as my dreams of a short sermon and lunch receded and my utter mortification increased. I managed to make it back to my seat and somehow made it through another forty-minute sermon. By the time we made it to lunch I was able to enjoy a good long laugh with my parents and grandparents about it. But I will ALWAYS remember that humiliating moment of realization, that I-can’t-believe-I-just-did-that feeling, that deep wish to go back and erase that decision from history. But alas, since that is not possible, I will continue to always have a most-embarrassing moment to share without even having to stop and think about it. 🙂

Do you have a humorous church music story to share? I’ve heard many from my musician friends, and could probably make LOTS of posts out of the stories I’ve collected. From showing up to direct the choir wearing only a slip for a skirt, to accidentally pressing the demo button on the electric keyboard. I’d love to hear yours, too!

I have to add that there are plenty of inspiring and rewarding moments involved in being a church musician, too. I love playing for my church, even with all the possibilities for mixing up the order of the service. 😉

Within the next few weeks I’m hoping to post some more church music helps–PDF’s of hymn arrangements I’ve made, as well as hymn-playing tips. Stay tuned!

Happy Sunday!

~Flossie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Life, 2015

Recently I clicked on that “Most Used Words on Facebook” link that I noticed most of my friends sharing. It showed the words used most in your status posts in a neat little word cloud. I’ll show you mine, because it goes perfectly with my 2015 post. I think you can see from the large letters what my life was like this past year! 🙂

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As I close out this crazy year of life changes and firsts, I realize how much Kali and I have grown and changed together. Abe and I have grown as a married couple (hey, we made it through the first year!!) but the differences for Kali and me are more noticeable. So this New Year’s Eve post is dedicated to my special little girl and the bond we made this year. (And sorry, Abe–but Kali’s name is just bigger than yours on my Most Used Words cloud! 😉 ) 

Life with Kali

#1 thing I learned this year: Kids grow SOOO fast!! It is hard to believe that this time last year Kali was a little toddler who needed me to carry her up the stairs, lift her onto couches and her bed, and kind of basically do EVERYTHING for her. Now she is a tall-for-her-age beauty who walks on her own, is fully potty trained, and has a better sense of style than I do! Her confidence has sky-rocketed this year. And so has mine.

She is more confident in my love for her. She doesn’t ask Grammy any more if her mommy will “love her forever, or just for a little bit.” (And break my heart!)

I am more confident in her love for me too. No matter how many times it happens, it touches my heart every time when she wants me over all else. I love when she runs past her dad so he doesn’t grab her (it’s a morning ritual haha) to get to my side of the bed so I can pull her up and cuddle before we have to wake up. I love when we’re at church and she tells everyone around her that that’s her mommy playing the piano up front.

I’ve seen my confidence grow in the area of parenting. And trust me–I’m no expert!! But I’ve noticed that a key, at least for me, is knowing Kali. I’ve read a lot of books trying to get a handle on the whole instant-mom deal, have gone to parenting classes at our church, and watched other parents. But only Abe and I really know Kali, and sometimes all that stuff just doesn’t work. Kali and I went through a lot of rough patches this past year. It wasn’t easy going from “best-friend/sleepovers-every-week” during the engagement phase to just mom.

I remember one day she was being pretty difficult–nothing too crazy, just a lot of whining… and crying… and acting like I was the most terrible person on earth. 😉 I went into her room to tell her she had to put her night braces on, and she burst out crying yet again. “You ALWAYS make me wear my braces! I don’t WANT to wear them!!” At that point, after the whole rough day, I was ready to cry myself. I couldn’t handle our repeated conversation with her about why she needed to wear them, and definitely couldn’t handle a battle where I just made her wear them. Just from lack of knowing what else to do, I picked her up, sat on her bed, and just rocked her in my lap for a little while. I was tired of trying to have all the answers like “real moms” do (in my opinion at the time).

I was a little shocked when just a little later she stopped crying and hugged my neck and told me she loved me. She seemed calmer and easier to deal with, we got her night braces on with no problem, and she was even laughing and begging me to read her a book. It was a miracle from God and I thanked Him for getting me through!

#2 thing I learned: Kids pick up on and copy actions that you might not even know you’re doing!

I can’t tell you how many times Kali will say something and I wonder where she heard that, only to find out I had said it! I didn’t realize I said this one certain phrase a lot–“If I said it’s time for bed, it’s time for bed!” and “If I said it’s not, it’s not!”  Then we got in the car one day and Kali said it’s sunny out. Abe and I looked at each other, and Abe said, “Actually it’s pretty cloudy, Kali.” Kali replied without blinking an eye: “Daddy, if I said it’s sunny, it’s sunny!” Ahhh!!! Abe definitely knew where that one came from. 😉

But then there are the times when I didn’t know it was possible to feel so proud of someone. Like when she picks up on my teaching habits, and teaches her dolls how to play the piano–with lots of praise for how well they do! Or when I realize that what I’m saying might actually be getting through to her–like when she uses please and thank you without being told.

I’ll end with one of the most rewarding moments of my year.

(BESIDES when she went a week with no accidents and finally was potty trained–I HONESTLY was more excited on that day than I was at my highschool graduation!) 

We were at a family gathering, and all the cousins were eating at a smaller table in a different room from the adults table. At our house, Abe and I always pray before meals with Kali, and she loves to beg us to let her pray for the meal. She and I also pray before lunch at school. In the busyness of getting all the kids their food and drinks and being all together, I didn’t even think about praying before the meal. Suddenly I heard Kali’s high, loud voice above all the commotion–“MOMMM!! We didn’t pray!!” Apart from being a little embarrassed as all the eyes in the room turned to me, I felt an enormous sense of satisfaction that my girl remembered and wanted to make sure we prayed before we ate. I quietly told her she can pray for herself and her cousins, then the whole room got quiet as my little Kali prayed in her cute little way.

I realized that day that investing in the life of another person is worth it. Whether you are a step-parent, biological parent, teacher, mentor, friend–any time you make a difference in someone’s life, all the struggle is worth it. I’ll go through a thousand more nights waking up to Kali’s cries at 2am and rubbing her legs for 15 minutes until she falls back asleep because the night braces hurt her so much. I’ll take the extra 10…15…20 minutes it takes to get out the door each day with her in tow. LOVE does that to you somehow, you know??

I wouldn’t trade a single day with you this year, Kal-Pal, and can’t wait to see how much you grow in 2016. I love you so much. ❤ Mom

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P.S. Goals for 2016??

Abe and I are cutting Facebook out of our life this year, just for one year. We’re focusing on our family and limiting distractions. I’m committing to wake up earlier and exercise…yeah, yeah, that’ll last about a month. 😉 We’re saving to go to Disney…if that dream will ever come true, for Kali AND for me! And we’re praying about decisions for the best option for Kali’s schooling. We are so thankful for all that God has brought us through this year, and all that He has in store for 2016.

Happy New Year!!

 

 

Better to Die in Egypt

Have you ever been at a point in your life where you wanted something different, something better? And then something happens…and you change your mind and want your old life back?? (Not speaking from experience, I promise…. 😉 )

I have occasionally wanted something and then got it, only to find out I didn’t really want it at all. AKA, a small sporty car. Give me back my big engine Explorer! 🙂

Abe and I are attending a class on Wednesday nights offered by our church, called “Restoring Love in the Blended Family.” This was our first week. We are watching the “SMART Stepfamilies” video series by Ron Deal. (If you are part of a blended family, which a HUGE percentage of Americans are, please check out the site: Smart Stepfamilies You will be encouraged!)

Before I get to the reason why this blog post title is about Egypt, let me back up. I was excited and cautious when I found out our Pastor was doing a blended family parenting small group class on Wednesday nights. For those of you who don’t know me, I married my husband Abe in December of this past year, 2014, and became an instant step-mom to his beautiful daughter Kali. So we are about 9 months into the whole blended family deal. And it is true, NOTHING can fully prepare you for this life. You think you are ready, and you prepare, and you pray…but it is simply, as Ron Deal puts it, “complex” and there is no easy formula! 

So back to this class, I knew I wanted to go…knew I needed to go. I tried to think through our church families…Umm, who besides Abe and me will be there?? I actually knew of many in our church that would possibly go to it. Will we have to talk? Because I’m positive there’s no way Abe will say anything so that means I will have to. I was relieved when Pastor announced that it is open to people not in blended families as well, as they could still learn from it. Phew!

Another part of me was scared to admit I needed to go. So many well-meaning people took it upon themselves to talk to either me or Abe or both of us about what we might be facing when we got married. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate the advice…but when you are the main pianist at a large church, a lot of eyes watch you! And when you are a staff member, pianist up front, teacher to most of the kids in the church, AND you are about to marry a man with a daughter…there is no END to the advice offered, warnings issued, “I’m praying for you” phrases heard. I remember patiently trying to graciously accept each and all and take as much truth out of them all as I could. But then the wedding happened…and life went on. People still watched, but didn’t talk as much. They just watch us walk into church with Kali, watch Kali calling me mom and getting excited to watch me play the piano, watch us both try to keep her quiet during the service. (Haha! She turned 4 right after we got married…so we got to deal with those fun times right away!!) And somehow the combination of all the talk before the wedding, with the silence after the wedding, and the reality of our life after the wedding, put a little guard up on my heart. All of a sudden, it wasn’t about appreciating prayers and advice and kind people. It was about proving that we could make it, that we don’t have problems, that being a step family is the most natural thing in the world. 

But it’s not.

It’s really hard. 

There, I said it. 🙂 All of the kind people at my church are truly kind–it is only in my heart that I feel pressure to live up to expectations. This class on Wednesday nights is slowly taking that guard off of my heart, and helping me realize I can admit that sometimes life is a struggle. Whether you are part of a blended family or not–life will be hard!

Ron Deal made a statement that was like cool water refreshing my soul: “Feeling lost in the wilderness is par for the journey of a step-family.” How did he know?? 🙂

Sometimes I do feel a little lost in the wilderness. Sometimes when I see the hugeness of it all. Like the fact that Kali is growing up. And just like I grew up in my stable home with mom and dad and brothers and sisters, she is growing up in my home. Is it stable enough for her? Are Abe and I a good team, do we let our own problems affect her when we think she doesn’t understand? Will she ever resent me? Am I doing all the right things as a mom for her? How on earth will I get her through school and make sure she learns and does well in her class? If you are a mom out there–step mom or biological, I’m sure you can relate to the myriads of questions and concerns that bombard my mind constantly regarding Kali. I simply feel inadequate to meet all her needs.

Sometimes I feel lost in the wilderness because I’m not sure where I belong. My life took a turn that I never envisioned–so how do I go forward when I’m not even sure what our family life is supposed to look like? After 9 months, I’ve accepted the fact that we are, and always will be, a blended family. And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. We’re not like my parents, or my family. We’re not like Abe’s family. We’re not like the families that most of our own generation grew up in. So where do I fit in? I’m embracing this new family life, embracing Kali and everything that comes with her. But I realized in jumping in wholeheartedly, it is easy to actually lose my heart’s orientation…lose who I am, myself, as a person, why I chose what I did, why I do what I do. Hence…I’m lost in the wilderness. 🙂

As we sat in the dimmed chapel and watched Ron Deal on the big white screen speak about the Isrealites in the wilderness, I thought about the verse he read about Isreal wishing they were back in Egypt. First they wanted out of their slavery. Then they got what they wanted, and found out they didn’t want it at all. They were envisioning the Promised Land full of milk and honey, peace for their families and land to build a life on. Instead they were stuck in the wilderness–wandering, lost, losing sight of God’s plan and provision for them.

We heard about how that picture is similar to a step-family situation. Two people fall in love–and envision the Promised Land. And then we find ourselves in the wilderness, and wonder what on earth went wrong.

If you are like me, and tired of wandering in the wilderness–don’t wish for your Egypt! Abe and I were encouraged on Wednesday night to not quit until we reach our Promised Land. We WILL get there. It could be long, hard, dangerous, difficult–but God is our God in the wilderness AND in the Promised Land. He IS leading us to right where He wants us right now–in the wilderness. Depending on Him. With the hope of the life He promised when He said, “For I know the thoughts I think towards you…thoughts of peace, and not evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jere. 29:11) And until then, we are finding God’s peace in the wilderness. When parenting problems arise, and worries crowd out our joy, we know we can depend on God to teach us what we need to learn in our wilderness.

It is NOT better to die in Egypt. I’ll stick through the wilderness and die in my Promised Land, thank you very much. 🙂

Honestly Yours,

❤ Flossie Phillips

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Our family when our Promised Land journey began ❤

Jealous Letter to Those Who Were Born

Dear Alive Person,

You probably didn’t expect to live in a world where simply being born was a luxury that 56 million human beings were denied. But still, you were given the gift of life, and I hope you know what you were given.

You were given the chance.
You were given the possibility of having a life full of experiences, colors, tastes, smells, smiles, and love.
You were given the opportunity to grow into a mature person, with dreams and goals and aspirations to pursue in any way you would like.
You were given the option to make the best out of whatever situation you were born into–because no matter the circumstances, at least you were born
You maybe were given the good fortune to be adopted into a loving family.
You possibly were given the destiny of living a special needs life–surrounded by skilled, educated care-givers, touching lives in a special way that others can’t.
You definitely were given the precious commodities that all of you living people share–Oxygen. Water. Breath in your lungs, blood in your veins.

Do you see why I can’t help being jealous of you? I wasn’t even given the chance to know what was happening to me. You continued growing in your safe womb–I had no idea mine wasn’t safe. I was the unfortunate one…the one who wasn’t given a choice. The one whose opportunity and destiny were ripped away from me the same way my tiny body was ripped apart and sold to make a profit.

I never knew what it meant to breathe in a full gust of clean fresh oxygen or grow into the person I wanted to be. Maybe I would have experienced heart break, or failure, or desperation–but the hope of change or interaction with other people would have been worth it.

I hope you thank God every day for the gift of life you were given. No matter what kind of life it is–it is yours, and you can choose to do what you want with it.

I am heading up to Heaven now, where my Creator will welcome me since earth did not, but was given a chance to write you this one letter. Make sure you thank mom for picking you to be the one to live.

I’ll be with all the others through the ages who were murdered…some before their time, some through excruciating means, some innocents who lived in the wrong time period. That is the group I will be in–Tthe unfortunate group of innocent millions who were conceived in America, in the age of convenience, irresponsibility, and selfishness. 

To my alive brother–forgive my jealousy, and break the pattern of your society. You were born–make it count. 

Sincerely,

Your Aborted Sibling

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America

July 4th: a day to celebrate the USA, freedom, patriots, and heroes who gave their lives; our history, our heritage.

I love America! I grew up in a patriotic household. My mother’s birthday is July 4th, and she couldn’t be happier sharing her birthday with America. Both of my grandfathers were in the military. I have eight great uncles–all brothers to my special Grandmom Koechig (she was the only girl of nine kids!)–and almost all were involved in the military. I have an ancestor…not sure if it is Uncle Archie or Cousin Archie… who fought in WWI and died from the yellow mustard gas. One of my Grandmom’s brothers was a decorated war hero of WWII–he ended up marrying a German girl whose father was a high-ranking Nazi official, but whose mother was sympathetic to the Americans. Because of his success in WWII, he was a consultant and strategist in the Vietnam War. My Uncle Herb is a Vietnam vet, my own dad was drafted a few short months before the war ended and thankfully never had to go over. We have some reason to believe that we are also related to Stonewall Jackson of the Civil War…but I don’t know for sure!

All that to say…I love this country and I love the history of the real people who sacrificed to make it what it is today. In honor of this past Independence Day weekend, I am reading a book entitled “America” (A Modern Library Original). It is simply a collection of classic writings that “help define the nation,” and I’m including some of my favorite quotes from it here. Don’t worry about borders or health insurance or the economy for a few minutes, and enjoy a glimpse of what made America great. God Bless America.

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From the Mayflower Compact (p. 3):

“Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honour of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony…covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body…for our better ordering, and preservation.”

“On the Death of Benjamin Franklin” by Philip Freneau:

“When monarchs tumble to the ground,

Successors easily are found;

But, matchless Franklin! what a few

Can hope to rival such as you.”

I love how Theodore Roosevelt described the end of the American Wilderness:

“By the close of 1883 the last buffalo herd was destroyed. The beaver were trapped out of all the streams…the flood of the incoming whites had risen over the land; tongues of settlement reached from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains, and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific. The frontier had come to an end; it had vanished.”

From Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau:

“This government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the America people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way.”

“Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? We should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law (only), so much as for the right.

“…men serve the state…as machines, with their bodies. Others…serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the Devil…A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also…and they are commonly treated as enemies by it.”

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Now a few of just my favorite general patriotic quotes:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

(Martin Luther King, Jr.)

“I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.

(Thomas Jefferson)

“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.

(Abraham Lincoln)

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

(Ronald Reagan)

God Bless America–Land that I love! 

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Our whole family at our Fourth of July/Mom’s Birthday picnic! 🙂