silent night

December 24, 2018

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Are we gonna be ok? Yes. But this? This is most definitely not ok.
Over the course of three days last week we were to find out that we most likely, and then, finally, that we definitely would be losing our jobs. Immediately. This, considering our lives as foreigners here, means that we are also losing our homes, our community, and our country. We are being instantly uprooted. While this process was in place, we had to go about business “as usual” in our classrooms. I had to cheerily give my normal “See ya later!” as the children filed out of the library, choking on the words and fighting back the tears.
Tears flow readily these days, as I waver wildly from one emotion to the next: gushing a weepy goodbye one moment and snapping argumentatively over a minor complaint the next.
We are in a frightening no mans land, knowing that no one who cares about us is in control anymore. We don’t know when our homes will be repossessed, or whether we will be allowed back into our offices or classrooms on any given day to clean up, and clear out.
Today Peter and I decided to try to get into the school one last time, so that we could consider it done and walk away. I witnessed the library ransacked. I saw the ravages of a space in which anything considered valuable is carted out; all that I had spent years thoughtfully arranging has been left picked over, and strewn about. Shelves I used to agonize over, trying to make all the books fit, are now bare.
I used to remind students each day to use their “spot-a-books”: “Now it’s time to get your spot-a-book, & choose your book. If you decide not to check out that book, your spot-a-book is waiting right there to show you where it goes!” Tell-tale signs of forgotten spot-a-books now litter empty shelves.
We did not linger long. A few possessions collected, then it was enough. We walked back out and told ourselves we’d done what we needed to do, seen what we needed to see. We returned to our home, grateful to be back but too aware of the precarious nature of this respite. It is time to purchase one-way flights, give away possessions, and pack the suitcases that have claimed closet space for years now. It is almost time to say goodbyes. Almost.
But first we stop. First we acknowledge this particular night—this holy night.
On Sunday I closed our opening worship by speaking the words of the song we had just, as a congregation, sung together. I asked that we all let the words be our prayer. Tonight I ask the same of my own heart. Tonight we push pause on it all, celebrating with a dear friend. Our table is laden with fried plantains and jollof rice, big bread buns and (only because it was requested!) ketchup.
Tonight, It’s a Wonderful Life.
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Silent night, holy night
Son of God
Love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth

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curmudgeonly chronicles

December 15, 2018

FullSizeRender (15)The school Christmas program is over. And this, my friends, is the only photo I took of the event. It was after proudly realizing I could tie white fabric in a way that would look official and nicely-decorated. The reason this is the only photo of the event is that I was fully enmeshed in logistics for the actual performance, monitoring my cues and actual performance issues so that I could do my job (running the lights) well. Yes, hubby and I are in our third year now as team Sound-and-Lights-Duo. This year added a new dimension to the festivities for me, in that I was also on the Committee for putting on the event; thus the added chair decor, making programs for the evening, projector distribution and other sorts of minor, but necessary, tidbits. After all, the show must go on! And go on it did. The kiddos were darling, parents were proud …and now, my small household is simply glad for a bit of a break in the action. Till next weekend’s church choir performance! ;-)

*Fittingly, the shadow in the background of this shot is hard-working hubby, in the middle of his own setting-up logistics

curmudgeonly chorister

December 9, 2018

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As of late, gratitude has been a stretch for me. The past few weeks have had me nursing a wounded pride, and trying to find the strength to move forward from a severe blow to the core of my identity. I have watched the seasonal celebrations with little interest in joining the chorus of thankfulness for all the joys of the holidays. Scrooge, the Grinch . . . name your curmudgeonly character, and I’ll trump it!
But today I could no longer cling to that curmudgeonly self; in spite of my will, the tears came when I saw the choir gathering up around the piano to continue perfecting their parts, long after I’d applauded how well they sounded (near perfection) and dismissed them. But instead, these teens and twenties (?) wanted it to be even better. So while others packed up to enjoy the remnants of Sunday, while stir-crazy kiddos interrupted them by climbing on laps and banging out “twinkle, twinkle, little star” in the middle of their accompanist’s efforts, and while I snuck behind them to take pictures, they carried on with diligence.
Wow, I mused, shaking my head. I doubt if I would have done that in my own high school choir days. And I certainly am not inclined to do it now, as I rush from one thing to the next in a state of amped-up anxiety and “urgent” to-dos!
There is so much for me to learn from this young Korean/Chinese/Ghanaian/American hodge podge tha,t for some reason, sees fit to call me “Pastor.” Truthfully, I have no idea what I’m doing; I have no proper training as a choir director . . . just a decent musical ear and a number of decades of experience with amateur musical activities. But here I am. And here they are. And, well, I say it again: Wow! There is so much talent packed into this small squad that pretty much all I have to do is pick some songs and wave my hands around in the air in front of them! Ok, so maybe I put in a good deal more effort than that—but they’d probably sound just as brilliant if that’s all I did ;-)
Yes—this is us. And thanks to the “us”-ness of it all, I’m a tiny bit less of an Eeyore at the moment . . . and a great deal more grateful.