Monday, October 31, 2011

"Yes, I'm a Witch." Happy Halloween from Yoko Ono.

Yoko Ono

Yes, I'm a Witch

Oh, please don't give me that!

Yes, I'm a witch,
I'm a bitch
I don't care what you say,
My voice is real.
My voice speaks truth,
I don't fit in your ways.

I'm not gonna die for you,
You might as well face the truth,
I'm gonna stick around for quite awhile.

We're gonna say,
We're gonna try,
We're gonna try it our way.
We've been repressed,
We've been depressed,
Suppression all the way.

We're not gonna die for you,
We're not seeking vengeance,
But we're not gonna kill ourselves for your convenience.

Each time we don't say what we wanna say, we're dying.
Each time we close our minds to how we feel, we're dying.
Each time we gotta do what we wanna do, we're living.
Each time we're open to what we see and hear, we're living.

We'll free you from the getthos of your minds,
We'll free you from your fears and binds,
We know you want things to stay as it is,
It's gonna change, baby.

It's gonna change, baby doll,
It's gonna change, honey ball,
It's gonna change, sugar cane,
It's gonna change, sweetie legs.
So don't try to make cock-pecked people out of us.

(This 2007 remix fucking rocks.)

‎"So long as you are still worried about what others think of you, you are owned by them." ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Rumor has it, according to George Harrison, a "wah wah" was British slang at the time for a "big fucking headache." This song came to mind as I awakened at 5am from last night's vivid nightmare.

You've given me a wah-wah
And I'm thinking of you
And all the things that we used to do
Wah-wah, wah-wah

You made me such a big star
Being there at the right time
Cheaper than a dime
Wah-wah, you've given me your wah-wah, wah-wah

Oh, you don't see me crying
Oh, you don't hear me sighing

I don't need no wah-wah
And I know how sweet life can be
If I keep myself free from the wah-wah
I don't need no wah-wah

Oh, you don't see me crying
Hey baby, you don't hear me sighing
Oh, no no-no no

Now I don't need no wah-wah's
And I know how sweet life can be
If I keep myself free - of wah-wah
I don't need no wah-wah

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Great Gig in the Sky

It's the kind of service you never want to have to attend. Babies shouldn't die, certainly not under the violent circumstances which this baby died. Yet there we were, about 120 of us en masse, the church family and the extended family and friends of the family.

God called me to accompany Jake on the song he wanted to sing for Jayden. Music is one of Jake's favorite mediums of expression, and I totally groove on that, so I felt privileged to have the chance to represent our church family and be up there with him with his gentle guitar strumming and smooth, confident, soulful voice. I believe my position--my role in the service--was to represent the church family. To show our solidarity and support. To stand beside this family in their grief and join them in their praise.

I'd been frantically nervous preparing for this song, as I wasn't familiar with it and had no prior practice. It distracted me at work all day, worrying about the improvisation. A half an hour before the service, Jake and I quietly ran over half of the tune and I came up with a rhythm on the congas that only God could've inspired. We couldn't play and sing loudly, for people were already streaming into the sanctuary. So I only heard the general beat of the song and I could barely hear Jake singing. Cue anxiety.

Nervous at work, I talked to TOC briefly on the phone, as he was in the hospital rounding and not in the office to help calm me down. He wisely suggested I phone my brother. I texted Drozd for some support, but I don't know what he was in the middle of, and I didn't hear back from him in time (until late that night, actually, after all was said and done). Nearly frantic before the service, while chain smoking in my car, I phoned my brother for some spiritual guidance and practical advice. "I need some divine inspiration, Steve," I told my brother, who was in the park with his dog at the time. "Take your rings off, Annie," he said. "They clank on the congas and they ruin the skins." Fair enough. "Listen to the guitar," he said, "but more importantly, listen to Jake's voice. Follow his voice with your rhythm." He prayed aloud that God would find the proper rhythm for me to play, and I prayed that God would make it really bloody obvious to me, and He responded. He prayed that God would be pleased with all things that were to His glory, and for the strength of the entirety of the congregation during this time of intense grief. I was calmed and soothed by my brother's presence on the other end of the line.

I knew what I was called to do, and naysayers who think singing and music don't belong in a memorial service, the heck with ya'll. I'd much rather everyone vigorously belt out some of my favorite tunes than bore the attendees with recollections of whatever the hell it was I did on this mortal coil.

1 Corinthians 14:15--"What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also."

The memorial service for Jayden was intense and beautiful and sad and inspiring. Luke wouldn't have been able to grasp it's enormity in his naivete, even though he's wise beyond his years. He was, as I've previously said, at home with Daddy fixing his gun, which turned out to be a wise decision. There were only a handful of children at the service, mostly family members of the baby.

The service was solemn yet celebratory. Most impressive were the family's recollections of the baby and her 99 brief days spent on this Earth. The family was praising God for the time that the baby was in their stead, feeling blessed and grateful for the blessing of her presence and likening her time on Earth as a gift from God, rather than cursing God for taking her way. Their faith is unshakable and solid, surreal given the circumstances of her death, repeating the phrase "God is good" to the congregation with all of us shouting back a hearty "AMEN!"

A friend and I were talking last night and he was wondering what the family would be like once reality really finally struck them about the baby's death, about their son being on trial for 1st degree murder, etc. Never having seen people with such fervent faith, I have every confidence this family will draw God closer, will draw one another closer, and the church family will be right at their sides. Losing the baby is truly only the beginning of the agony this family will undertake, but God is merciful and gracious to those who love Him.

The baby's uncle, who gave the first speech, mostly about how much he loved doing Jayden's tiny laundry, and how the day she died, he found one sock in the dryer, and it belonged to her, sang a lullaby that he used to sing to Jayden in their native Samoan, that the whole family joined in unison singing. The grandmother, my bassist's wife, who brought that baby to church every weekend, praised the Lord for her life and her influence on the family dynamic. She said something to the effect of the baby being this angel sent by God to bless their family for 3 months, to have an enormous impact on all of their lives, and then God called her back home. That made her extra special, indeed. Finally, my bassist, Jake, got up to sing his solo on acoustic guitar with me accompanying him on congas.

In talking with my Stephen minister, my spiritual therapist, today, she said she watched me play along with Jake and it looked like I was really concentrating on what I was doing, whereas I'm a little more animated and out there when I play with my whole band. I *was* concentrating, listening intently, following along. I was pleased with the accompaniment, but more so, Jake was happy with it. More so than THAT, I think God was pleased. It truly was the toughest musical task I've ever been asked to complete.

Matthew 18:20: "For where two or three of have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." God filled that church. Jayden filled that church. None of us could claim loneliness.

Finally, at the end of the service, pink balloons were handed out to the entirety of us, and we flocked out into the chilly night to lift the balloons to the sky for Jayden. We lifted them into the air, calling out her name, and watched them float southward into the night. Not eco-conscious, but poignant nonetheless. One final uplifting of her soul before the faithful departed or went to the gym for the fellowship after the service.

I hesitantly accepted compliments on my contribution to the service from friends and congregants, which was but one reason (Luke being the main reason) why I sprinted out of the gym and headed home. I told everyone, "It wasn't me. It was God. God came up with that rhythm." The non-religious would probably label me as nuts (*which, in all fairness, is true), but that's how I felt. All I could say was "I did the best I could."

Ultimately, Congratulations, Jayden. You are reunited with Christ for eternity in paradise. Your 99 days here with us left a profound impression upon every soul who saw your beautiful face, especially on those who shared your life every day. You were innocent and blameless and deserved no harm to come to you, and that harm angers and saddens us all beyond comprehension. Yet we join with your family and with the Lord in welcoming you home into His kingdom.

Clicks. Clacks. Riding the backs of giraffes for laughs is alright for a while.

"I spent my whole fucking weekend trying to get that goddamn gun to work. I told him to leave it off until he goes trick or treating but he never listens to a word I say."

--Craig's initial response to my email late the other night with the subject heading of "EMERGENCY!"


He would cantankerously complain in his email about our son's tinkering with the homemade gun that goes along with his Halo Halloween costume, wired with lights which required laborious soldering, connecting and other "Only-Handy-Daddies-Can-Do" stuff, that Luke literally simply picked up to turn on (as he was putting one of his other rifles away for the night) and found that the aforementioned connections had failed. The battery pack had gotten extremely hot, which didn't sit well with me given the paint on the gun was flammable, so we took the batteries out. That was the extent of mother-assisted assistance.

It was 11:15 at night. I was beyond exhausted and wanted to go to sleep, pleading to my sobbing son (the perpetual night owl) to let it go and that I would contact his father ASAP and see if Craig could come and fix it Wednesday night during the memorial service, which I honestly preferred Luke not attend. Luke was inconsolable. Irate. Disappointed. Overtired. After my ex-husband's complain-a-thon reply to my email, Craig closed with the following:

"Sorry I swore, You have no idea how much time and agony we put into this project over this past weekend and I am still packed with stress."

That much I understood and I did sympathize with both Craig and Luke, but my email back to Craig was mindful and I pleaded with him that this is one of those instances where you have to put your own personal shit aside and your own social obligations and your girlfriend time on the back burner and just buck up and help your kid. To me, anyway, this wasn't the A-HA! moment to teach our boy life lessons about loss and disappointment. I wanted Daddy to swoop in and save the day, the way I envision Daddies always should. (What I remember of time with *my* Daddy, anyway. What I unfairly expect of my Tatus, who had the nerve to call me "demanding!" yesterday!)

Craig finally emailed me that he'd be over at around 6:30 to help Luke with the gun. As he's always been wont to ask me, "What are the chances of you shutting up until you get exactly what you want?" to which I answer frequently, "Slim to none." But this wasn't for my benefit. It was for Team Bechtel.

There was a little refreshment gathering in the gym after Jayden's memorial service last night, which I really would've liked to have stayed longer for, but I didn't know if Luke was home alone or if Craig was still there working with him on fixing the gun. I made the decision to split for home, while my ma stayed to hobnob and enjoy the fellowship and food.

What I walked into at home, after unlocking the door to the house, after experiencing this intensely heavy, deeply emotional, horribly sad yet celebratory service for this baby, was kismet.

My family was home.

Seeing Craig and Luke working together on the living room floor of the house made me strangely high in my heart.

Fractured and disbanded though we may legally be, Craig and Luke will always be my little family. The three of us have this undeniable, unbreakable bond far beyond sharing a child that transcends the infrequent yet snarky email exchanges between my ex-husband and myself, our mutual quirky annoyances and opposite personalities notwithstanding. I could rattle of a dozen reasons why it's for the best that we're no longer married to one another, but I could also give you a number of reasons why I, at least, wish we still were. Maybe Craig and I weren't meant to be, but Craig, Luke and I most definitely were.

Craig and I really were very much in love once we got together, though I distinctly remembering him tell me once early on in our relationship, "Don't hate me if things don't work out between us." Spookily prophetic. *I* asked him out on a date in 1992. He said yes. We went to see "JFK," which I picked out, so that I could spend as much time with him as possible, the film being over 3 hours long. I paid for the movie and he paid for dinner at the local Galesburg Chinese restaurant.

We had so much fun our first Knox trimester together that I neglected my studies to the point where I was kicked out of college on academic suspension for a term. Two D's and an F. During my term off of school, I worked in Chicago and visited Craig periodically at Knox, attending writing workshops and sitting in on a few classes.

The summer after our junior year, when Tim and Kate left as our resident assistants and moved to NY, Craig and I sublet their apartment in Williston Hall for the summer. Our first time living together. And it was sheer bliss. I worked in the Dean's Office and Craig worked overnights at a local hotel. I think between the two of us, we earned about $50 a week on which to live, which simply meant that we needed gas in the car and food in our bellies. For some reason, insomnia had the best of me that summer, and I found myself staying up all night because Craig wasn't home, taking him hot dogs to eat at the hotel in the middle of the night. We had the master key to every room in Williston, and were the best friends of all the kids who stayed in the hall on campus that summer who'd locked themselves out, or who wanted to veg out in our air conditioning, or who needed a ride into town or to the doctor. The summer of love, 1993.

By senior year, we were one of those couples who were, literally, CraigandAndrea. Inseparable. Solid. Committed. We took a brief break to date around in the spring of '94 before deciding we wanted to spend our lives together and got engaged at our favorite Chinese restaurant in Galesburg the night before my 22nd birthday. Craig may correct me if I'm wrong, but he had enough credits to graduate after Fall term of '94, but stayed on the whole year to stay with me, only taking one class per term to keep himself busy. He moved up to Chicago from Kansas after we graduated and found a job. We were married on August 3, 1996 and had Luke 4 years later.

The years in between our vows and Luke's birth were complicated. I was undiagnosed and unmedicated crazy-bipolar-manic-crazy, behaving very badly (which Craig was acutely aware of but never confronted me about), and survived narcotics addiction and recovery and a miscarriage. He witnessed insane behavior like me shoveling the entirety of our driveway property at our apartment building at 2am during a massive snowstorm (mania!) and didn't think twice. He came home from work to find me so doped out I was literally unresponsive, with lit cigarettes in the living room, or constantly tearing him away from work to take me to the ER so I could be shot up with more narcotics if I needed a fix and didn't do a damn thing about it to do what a spouse should've done, which would've been to throw my ass in rehab or a psych ward and ask questions later.

Once I got clean and the baby came, things were headed in a very positive direction at Camp Craig and Andrea for a good, long stretch, though in hindsight, like a lot of young couples with young children, we put our own relationship on the back burner in favor of raising our son. Then crazy-bipolar-manic-crazy, financial disaster, me behaving very badly again and alcoholism entered the picture. In my own defense, I was insane and drunk most of the time, and my husband did little to intervene other than to sporadically leave brochures on the counter like, "Do You Have a Problem with Alcohol?" I told Craig I was unhappy and wanted out of the marriage in a manic, abrupt fashion late in 2006 and by March of 2007, I had moved out of the house with Luke in tow. At that point in time, emotions were so raging that, despite sharing a child, we really didn't want to have much to do with one another, though we attempted to reconcile a couple of times, and God bless the guy, like I've mentioned before, he sat with me in the ER for 8 hours until I sobered up enough to check myself into alcohol rehab. Because though we were living separate lives, he was still technically my husband.

As he worked and swore under his breath with the gun, I offered Craig something to eat, as he hadn't had dinner yet and came straight to our house from work, but he declined. Instead, he continued to labor, asking me for tools that I gathered out of the toolbox in the basement. Luke vied for our attention by honking his stuffed walrus, and I proceeded to check in my emails and Facebook on the computer, firing up the iTunes. It was no different than in the halcyon days of our marriage and family time when Luke was little. The good years. I wanted it to last all night.

Craig and I had a particularly, uncharacteristically as of late, nasty set of email exchanges over the course of the last week, regarding where-to-go-trick-or-treating decisions, therapist-finding tension, using our son as an intermediary for messages best kept betwixt grown-ups and financial bickering. All of that, however, was put aside for the greater good, which was helping our son. Craig and I are very good at putting our personal disagreements aside when it comes to what's best for Luke, which I guess is unusual for a lot of divorced couples who harbor bitterness and malice towards one another.

The common person doesn't comprehend how we still manage to share holidays with one another together, now including his girlfriend of (I think it's around) 2+ years, and still putting up with one another's mothers, sitting together in church (while we see other divorced couples on opposite ends of the sanctuary). The common person expects us to argue constantly and use our son as a negotiating prop. Craig was vocally concerned about me during my relationship with "The Dough Boy" as he called him, and honestly couldn't bear to hear the full details of what his former wife went through, though he never liked "The Dough Boy" and always sensed something was terribly awry in that relationship. Once Craig found out that I had documented, diagnosed PTSD, he offered not only his sympathies but also a listening ear should I ever want to talk. I have yet to take him up on that. He's always said that he wishes me the best and wants me to be happy, and he means that, and vice-versa.

As the iTunes shuffled, Craig, in his infinite musical knowledge, one of the things that drew us together in the first place, pointed out songs I was playing...most poignantly for that evening, "The Porpoise Song" by the Monkees. It's a song about saying goodbye to someone, befittingly.

We keep meaning to get together so I can 12-step with him and properly, according to AA statutes, make amends towards him. That hasn't happened yet. I asked Craig some time ago in an email why he never got me help when I was drunk and mentally ill, and why he just let me walk away and didn't fight to hold onto me and get me the help I needed. He never answered that email. All this time, I've taken all the blame and all the responsibility for the disintegration of our relationship when it honestly is also partly his fault.

(What is it about me and asking guys difficult emotional questions via email that they never answer? Cowards!)

As a quarterly financial contributor to his radio show on (where Craig spins tunes from 6-9pm CST every Saturday night), my reward for the donation was a handmade CD from Craig to me. (I also got a very nice metal bottle opener, which is ironic given I don't have a lot of beer bottles just lying around anymore.)

Some of the songs were humorous, some biting, weighty and angry, some favorites from our college days, one that he played on our college radio station the night we had our first big fight as boyfriend/girlfriend...a punk version of the Beatles' "Help!," Craig knowing my penchant for disliking ANY and ALL Beatles cover songs. The CD came in a CHIRP envelope, with no track listing, no artist accolades. It was something that had to be listened to intently to "get." A treasure with no map. I don't buy for a second that he "forgot" to put a track listing in. He *wanted* me to listen to those songs.

He has always been better at expressing himself musically than verbally, though we were both writing majors, and one song on that CD just choked me up, made me smile, said everything he couldn't muster the courage to say and showed me how my husband honestly felt about me. I think it answered the question I was asking about why he didn't jump in and force me to get help for my addictions or my bipolar. My Stephen Minister therapist from church asked me honestly what I thought Craig would say, if confronted with that question in person. I said he'd either say he didn't know WHAT to do or he was just THAT scared. In either case, I can empathize with his inner conflict. I'm not angry anymore. I don't think Craig is, at heart, terribly angry with me anymore either. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing and the cliche that time heals even the deepest of wounds is quite true.

Craig hugged and kissed Luke goodbye when he finally left Wednesday night, the gun in working order again. I stood behind Luke, holding out my arms, waiting for my hug, which he seemed to reluctantly reciprocate. It didn't matter. He held me tightly as I said a heart-felt "thank you."

The song that transfixed me on the CHIRP CD was called "Thank You," by the Redwallls (no, I've never heard of them). I'm no stranger to men sending me love songs with either/both covert and overt expressions of feelings, frankly. "Thank You," though, spoke more volumes about how much he ultimately loved me than anything he would ever be capable of telling me to my face. It took me a while to determine his intent in including that song. Was it a slap in the face, secretly dedicated to his current girlfriend? A mockery? Bitter irony? No. None of those things.

For better or worse....Craig had the first place in my heart when I was 19 years old. He'll always have a big part of it, dedicated to him forever. Unconditional love, appearing again.

These days it seems as though
I've lived a lonely lifetime
All because I never had a girl like you
To hold me tight

And since you came around
And showed your way to me
I'm beginning to think that I'll
Never be blue anymore

Now that you're in my life
You are my brightest day
When you came, you chased my blues away

And you know you're all that I been waitin' on
And all the stars I wish upon
And so I say "Thank you for bein' there
'Cause you and me are gonna be alright
Thank you for lovin' me
'Cause you and me are gonna be alright"

Well, any time of day
You wreck my bed
Since I heard you spoke go 'round my head
And you know that you're all
That I've been waiting for
You're the queen of all my dreams

And so I say "Thank you for bein' there
'Cause you and me are gonna be alright"
On my knees, it's days like these
When all I see is you and me

These days it seems as though
I've lived a lonely lifetime
All because I never had a girl like you
To hold me tight

And since you came around
And showed your world to me
I'm beginning to think that I'll
Never be blue anymore

Now that you're in my life
You are my brightest day
When you came, you chased my blues away

And you know you're all that I been waitin' on
And all the stars I wish upon
And so I say "Thank you for bein' there
'Cause you and me are gonna be alright
So thank you for lovin' me (like you did before)
'Cause you and me are gonna be alright"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

How Do I Put This, Medically?

Patient on the phone: "Is Dr. C there? I mean, is he still THERE?"

Me: "The doctor's picked up all his messages for today, but I'd be happy to leave him a message for tomorrow."

Patient: "Is he still THERE?"

Me: "Did you leave him a message earlier today?"

Patient: "No, but..."

Me: "Is it an emergency?"

Patient: "Yes."

Me: "What is your emergency?"

Patient: "I have been taking high doses of iron pills. I'm so constipated. It's's impacted."

Me: "Ok..."

Patient: "I tried a suppository laxative...and it didn't work."

Me: "Ok...I can have the doctor call you tomorrow..."

Patient: "No. I'm sticking my hand UP MY ASS with a RUBBER GLOVE ON and PULLING SHIT OUT OF MY ASS AND IT'S HARD AS A ROCK."

Me: "Oh my!"

I take her name and number down with an "ASAP" on the top of the message for Dr. C.

I pretty much had the patient's story committed to memory, as if I could forget it. But I didn't know quite how to word the message to the doctor, which goes back in the chart as a matter of the patient's record.

I decided on the following:

"Patient is pulling stool out of her rectum with a rubber glove up her anus and her stool is very solid. Patient is complaining of a great deal of discomfort."

I was too busy to ask the doctor what became of the patient and her bowel troubles, but I have to say, I deal with an awful lot of "impacted crap" from people every day...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Awkward Agape Applause

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is one of the most conservative and traditional fundamentalist denominations in all of American Protestantism. An oddity that it's the church of which I'm a member, given my nutty irreverence towards God and Christianity, and my shrieking liberalism, but it's home to me, as I've said before. It's my tradition. It's what I practice, though I don't see eye-to-eye with my denomination on many issues.

Last night was the Contemporary service, and it was a weekend wrought with intensity. Friday night's practice entailed me having to sing Godspell's "Day by Day" solo, as Hannah, our supreme soprano, was working and couldn't practice with us, though she would be at the Saturday service. Vocal talent not being one of my God-given abilities, I croaked the song out solo as best I could just to get the timing down for the other vocalists, and by the 4th run-through, my voice had entirely given out and I couldn't hit ANY of the notes and Bob, the guitarist, was trying to back me up. I was a "dark hoarse." I ran out of breath, out of energy, though I am getting better at playing and singing at the same time. So good on that spectrum, at least.

We had a band devotion, as we are supposed to do before every practice, and Bob said a special prayer for the band to do God's work this weekend with divine inspiration and a special prayer for the family of our bassist, Jake, who lost his granddaughter just 2 weeks ago, days after our last service together. Practice--I didn't know what to expect, how to we carry on as if nothing is drastically wrong in one of our own's personal lives? Do we laugh and joke around and rock it out? Do we leave the mood solemn and downtrodden out of respect and comfort? The answer was a little bit of both. Jake is always the first to say that life continues on, insists that God is gracious and good, and that while this is the most awful thing that any human can imagine going through, the Lord is in charge and we keep going.

On relatively short notice, it was announced at the church that this coming Wednesday night, there would be a service of celebration of the life of the baby who passed away. Naturally, I planned to attend. Jake planned to sing a song or two during the service--from where he'd get the strength to do that given his sorrow, only the Lord can provide--and he asked Bob and Mary, the keyboardist, if they'd accompany him on piano and guitar. Sadly, they politely declined, citing that there was just no way they could learn the songs in that short a period of time. Instead of bass, Jake planned to play acoustic guitar. At the time, I didn't see where I would be of any help to his cause on the drums, but for some reason, the thought lingered in my mind all weekend, so I prayed about it.

Saturday rolled around and Hannah did a beautiful job on "Day by Day," as did the backing vocalists. After about a 3-service absence, Hannah's excitement and enthusiasm singing with us again was powerful. She was SO happy to be singing with the band this week, and boy, was I, for one, glad she was there. She jumped around singing, did hand motions, and was filled with the Spirit. We also did another rocking song, "Your Grace is Enough," which is a Chris Tomlin song, that is one to clap along with. The Lutheran Unity School "Little Lambs" Pre-K and Kindergarten choir augmented the offertory and did an awesomely cute job.

Finally, our closing song was the REALLY rollicking "We Want to See Jesus Lifted High," an oldie but goody. Bob does some intricate guitar solos twice during the course of the song, and I made up some new fills during the solos that garnered the band, with the congregation already standing and all clapping along, this giant round of applause at the end of the service. All Bob could utter was a quiet, "Thank you."

Applause during a Lutheran church service is a rarity. When I was a kid, it was unheard of and inappropriate. Why, I don't know. We applauded the Little Lambs choir, while their parents took video and a unanimous "Aww" swept through the congregation. This rousing round of applause from the congregation for the Praise Band, however, was just awkward to hear.

Sure, it boosts your musician ego. But like the band has been talking about lately, and I've said before that Jake's inclusion in the band has brought the band, collectively, back to focusing on God and praise rather than on ourselves as musicians. I like to think the applause was more the congregation being overwhelmed with the power of the Holy Spirit than with them being impressed with us as a band. At least I hope that was the case. In that moment, it's hard to, but necessary to, remember that it's not about US.

Keeping in mind that we're not good musicians because of our own merit. It's a gift from God. God inspires us to play, and we're not there to "perform." We're there to lead the congregation in worship through our music. We're there to enhance what's already a treasured span of time.

After the service, a number of people came up to us personally and told us how enjoyable the service was and what a great job we did. That's always nice to hear, but again, it's a little weird. I don't think we did any better or worse than we do any other weekend, but last night struck a chord (ha, I made a pun again!) with the church members.

Pastor Dave's sermon was terrific, for one thing, and I think a majority of the credit for the service's blessing should go to him. It was all about Agape love. The text for the sermon was taken from the Gospel passage where Christ commands us to love God with all of our hearts, souls and minds, and to love one another as we love ourselves. Dave reminded us that Jesus' intention was actually His COMMAND. Not a request. Not a suggestion. A COMMAND. No different than God commanding us to honor our mothers and fathers, not to steal, not to kill.

It brought me back to my other blogs and thoughts about unconditional love. It brought me back to the way I love my family and my friends unconditionally and receive that Agape love in return.

I had a minor row with my best girlfriend, Kate, this week, over something relatively unnecessary in hindsight. A misunderstanding based on both of us not having the back story of some facts about one another and causing us to miscommunicate until we were able to sort it out over the phone on Thursday night. Kate's an arguer, a fighter. For her to go all silent on me and unfriend me on Facebook, which she did by accident, was unusual. I was wondering just what the hell was up with her and she wasn't responding to my 2 phone voice mails and emails. Kate's also chronically very ill, and was too ill to communicate with me for a couple of days, understandably so. I won't go into the details about the fight, but it centered around me blaming myself for everything that destructed my marriage to Craig, and an insult to or about the mentally ill.

Wondering if it was appropriate for me to call her Thursday night, and if she was well enough to talk to me, I emailed her and asked her if I could call her. What sealed my impetus to phone her up was the following email reply I got from her Thursday afternoon:

"Andrea, I was trying to tell you not to blame yourself for EVERYTHING. I guess that didn't come across. I consider you my best friend and I wasn't calling you to the carpet in any way, shape or form. I was trying to, no, I was blaming Craig for never growing up. Please stop blaming yourself for everything. Ok. Call me tonight. You are a great, gifted, loyal, beautiful woman. Sometimes you do things exactly the way I would. What I am saying sometimes, most times. Unconditional friendship means everything you said in your blog plus one more thing. They are there for life. There is nothing you could do to get rid of me." --Kate Carroll (she insists I copyright her.)

That's exactly the kind of love Christ commanded of us. To love one another as we love ourselves. To be compassionate, to forgive, to support, to encourage. To work things out when you hit a pothole. Never to abandon. To be there for one another in good and bad times, regardless. To be of service to one another.

The sermon brought me back to the way I feel about Luke. Craig. My brother. My mother. My other incredible girlfriends and guy pals.

I prayed about Agape love thinking about my bassist Jake's plans for the baby's memorial service. I was inspired to give Jake a call and ask him if he wouldn't mind if I accompanied his songs by playing the congas along with his guitar. I don't know the songs. I will have not heard them until Jake and I run through them at a brief rehearsal half and hour before the service starts. I'm terrible at improvisation on the kit, but I am capable of decent improv on the congas in a pinch. It's all about rhythm. It's for the glory of God and to celebrate the life of that little baby. God will provide me what I need, of that I am confident.

I just hope no one applauds, in a weird way. Though maybe they should. In any event, please keep the family of the baby in your prayers, if you are the praying type...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"On Art and Science:" An Email I Sent Tonight

I sent the following email to my favorite scientist tonight.

See attached.

Never discount your capabilities as an artistic person, even though you don't view yourself as one. For you, I liken the "instruments" you use (or play) surgically as your manifestation, your artistic expression of the ability to diagnose and heal a human body. It's something to be proud of, a rare gift. Your art lies in taking things that are damaged, malformed, non-functional and intervening to work properly. You implanting a stent is no different than me figuring out a drum fill. They're just different kinds of art, all gifts from the Lord. And you can write! You write eloquently and honestly. And I've heard you sneak in some singing in the car....there's nothing wrong with your voice, either. My point being, we're all artists. A lot of what we're unable to communicate through conversation, we're able to express through the written word, or through music, or other arts. Your art lies in healing and comforting, listening and compassionately communicating. Adjusting a Coumadin dose is art of a scientific nature. Look at Da Vinci's anatomical drawings. A perfect combination of science and art.

When John Lennon met Yoko Ono, it was happenstance at an art gallery in London. He's been invited to a pre-opening of one of Ono's exhibits, which were all minimalist installation pieces, part of the famous Fluxus movement in art back in the 60's. She had an interactive piece that involved climbing up a ladder and using a magnifying glass to read a tiny word printed on the ceiling. Lennon climbed the ladder and saw that the word was simply "YES." He regaled later that it was the first exhibit that said something warm to him, so he decided to see the rest of her work. He said, "Had it said something like 'rip-off' or whatever," he would've walked out of the gallery. They would correspond via letters and postcards for the next 18 months before meeting again in person, and fell in love with her mind and her art, though they were each married with children. Once they met in person, that was it. Their first date was her coming over to his house ( don't know where Cynthia and Julian were at the time) and spending the night recording what would become the album "Two Virgins." It's offbeat and complicated as a chunk of music, but intriguing and intensely collaborative. Once they married, they concentrated their art and music into collaborative efforts that emphasized their individual strengths, which wasn't to the taste of the general population, to the fans of the mop-top Beatle fans, and decided to use their celebrity to tout the peace movement to mixed reviews. John did a series of erotic lithographs of Yoko that were seized by the London police as public pornographic displays, which seems so lame in this day and age. But all it was, in honesty, was a public display of what he visualized as the beauty of his wife. Fuck it if the police thought it was inappropriate. Michaelangelo's David is ok, but erotic illustrations of a woman are pornography? Idiotic. But I digress.

"Good artists copy. Great artists steal," or so I heard somewhere. When I took studio art in college, I realized I wasn't gifted as a painter or a sculptor (I got a D in ceramics). Frantic to come up with a piece for an assignment, I borrowed an idea of Ono's where she sat on a stage and had members of the audience cut strips of her clothing off until she was left nude and exposed to the world. Grasping for an interactive piece, I came up with the idea of sitting topless on the floor of the art studio, with my front covered up, and had the other students all come up to me and paint a word of their choosing on my back. I wasn't self-conscious or embarrassed at all about my body, though I was chunkier than I am now, certainly. And there was a certain vibe of safety in the class since Craig was in it with me. I have pictures of it buried somewhere, but out of ideas, I just let myself be the canvas and let the other artists in class come up with the hard stuff. Maybe a cop out, but if I remember correctly, I got a good grade on that piece.

My final for the class was a painting. I wanted to paint an abstract of the skyline of Chicago. Once again thinking out of the box, I painted the FLOOR OF THE ART STUDIO white in a giant square with a black border and created a canvas in the studio. I couldn't paint for shit, so my attempt at buildings were horrific. Once again, relying on the other artists in class, Craig included, I had my classmates interact and paint the rest for me, as they saw Chicago. I got into a hell of a lot of trouble with my professor for that project and was going to fail unless I repainted the floor back to it's original army green color, which I did. Some art works. Other art is a disaster. But I tried.

My friend Kate (the one in New York) has taught me so much about art and philosophy. She was highly impressed that you'd been to Georgia O'Keeffe's ranch, was likewise, as I was, grossed out that you tried wild boar, but valued your interest in O'Keeffe's work. Some of her work, to me, is obvious and straightforward "pretty stuff." Other works of hers are laden with difficult to decipher innuendo. Most fascinating was her relationship with photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Kate's fascinating to talk to about art because she has an encyclopedic knowledge of artists and their works. She's a painter and illustrator who graduated from the famous Rhode Island School of Design (a famous alum is David Byrne from Talking Heads). She's also studied at Brown and Harvard. Walking around the Art Institute of Chicago with she and her husband was a crash course in art that I appreciate to this day, though it had to be almost 20 years ago by now. Her support and encouragement has been crucial to my continuing to write my blog, as disjointed as it is sometimes. My pieces aren't all epics, but they're important to me and my continued recovery, and as I've said n the past, they're not an exercise in self-absorption but rather a chance for those who love me to love me more richly.

Who are some of your other favorite artists? I'm curious. You already know I dig Picasso, but I'm also a big fan of modern artists like Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, just to name a couple.

I thought about the attached Vonnegut quote as I sang tonight. I found myself apologizing to my bandmates about my lack of vocal talent, embarrassed at how easily I get out of breath, how my alto croak can't hit the high notes, how my natural singing voice is adequate and on-key while my attempt at soprano sounds like a strained whisper in the microphone. They all reassured me that my voice is just fine comparatively, though it'll be much easier when our soprano returns tomorrow for the service (she wasn't at practice tonight). We spent an inordinate amount of time on "Godspell's" "Day by Day," a song you may be familiar with. I had to teach the girls the timing of the vocals, the echo parts, and the tambourine rhythm that one of the vocalists has to maintain while I play the drums. THAT alone took me 20 minutes. Things like that, that come naturally and easily to me, are difficult for other people to pick up. Then I had to make up a conga rhythm for one of the songs that I used to play the full kit on, though with brushes, that didn't translate well on the awkward electronic kit. I just made it up as I went along and everyone was pleased. It was easy for me.

I was trying to invent some complicated new fills that are during Bob's guitar solos on "We Want to See Jesus Lifted High" to augment those sections of the song. One worked out, one didn't. Now I just have to remember what I did tomorrow. That's the bitch about playing by ear and not by sheet music. The other musicians can look at a piece of paper that has their whole parts mapped out for them. Mine? I have to create and then remember and recreate. To say that's challenging is an understatement, but it keeps the neurons firing, for sure.

I'm by no means anything like Steven. He does things at home like rent a cello for 2 weeks to figure out how to play it and after a few days of tinkering, boom, he can play the cello. Or the accordion. Or the sitar. Literally, any instrument he picks up he can figure out how to play. That kind of genius is rare and amazing, and I always tout him as a multi-instrumentalist, but you at one time labeled me a multi-instrumentalist and to a lesser degree, I suppose that's true. Steven has said that he dreams beautiful melodies, but he'll be damned if he can remember them when he wakes up. How beautiful and simultaneously frustrating that must be.

Music and writing have brought me boundless joy in my life. My art doesn't save others' lives like yours does, but it's saved mine on more than one occasion. They are what I consider my healthiest coping mechanisms. I sensed tonight at practice that my bassist, Jake, shared that joy, even given the devastation he's gone through as of late. He was focused, upbeat and played very well. A true inspiration not only in artistic expression but also in his faith in the power of the Lord.

I was a substitute teacher and creative writing instructor/tutor/ESL teacher at Maine South from 1999-2003. I doubt you remember that from my resume at work. I'm all about encouraging writing pursuits in young people (and middle aged scientists).

I completed Luke's Walrus Code deciphering project in exchange for him completing a writing assignment I gave him weeks ago that he has yet on which to embark. I emailed him the following, and I expect an answer, just as I expect an answer to the email query I sent you about our friendship, though he's approaching it under strict conditions against me (read: he expects me to pay him, smart aleck): (Caution: abrupt font change!)

I have a writing project that I'd like for you to complete for me. I'm deathly curious and want to foster in you the love and creativity of writing that both your dad and I have.

Type out the answer you have for the following prompts:

What he remembers (use baby photos, artifacts, your own stories to get him going)

What he observes (everything around him, something he noticed on his way to school or on a class trip)

What he wonders about (this is a fun one; find out what your child is thinking by asking about his wonderings. These will change on a daily basis!)

What he imagines (about the future, by creating a pretend universe, by inventing a news story)

I'll give you two weeks to complete it. It's for me and a blog i'm developing. I'm very interested in your answers. I'm trying to foster in you and help develop your writing skills.

Thanks! Mom

On that note, I'll close and encourage you once again to consider the project I offered you. Maybe this email has taught you a little bit more about yourself and how others see you, and how you see me. There's value in that.

To Art!!!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Talkin' 'Bout the Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues (Everyone Wants to Live Forever)

Not sharing what's on my mind is like being in a darkroom developing negatives that never get turned into photographs.

I completed Luke's walrus code assignment this weekend and got 40/39. An extra credit point for writing out in walrus code, "I love you." It was insanely complicated and took me over an hour, having started it at 7am on Sunday morning. He was excited when he got home from Dad's yesterday afternoon that I'd done my homework, probably figuring I'd act typically and tell him I didn't have time or energy to do what he asked. He graded it in red pen, critical of my drawing skills of the walrus symbols but giving me credit where credit was due.

Jesus had an easier time raising Lazarus from the dead than I do waking my son up for school in the morning. He'll wake up at 7:30 on the weekends with no problem on his own, but try and get him up at 7:15am for school? Forget it. It takes til 7:30 to get him out of bed, despite my "Come on Luke, get up buddy, time to get ready. You have to pack your school bag...Come on. Here are your clothes....let go of your walrus....go put your Axe on..." It's a stone drag and my least favorite part of the day*.**

*Unless you count working the front desk at work on Monday mornings. That truly sucks.

Yesterday at church, emotions were intense. The family of the late baby were there and more upbeat and hopeful than I ever could have imagined. I gave my bassist a big hug, and he's a big, strapping man, and he was comforting ME rather than the other way around. He was comforting everyone. He'd been to see his son in prison earlier in the morning, and felt good about that, as his son, the accused murderer, was doing alright. "He's still my son. The truth is the truth, but it's all in the Lord's hands," he said. "God is good, God is good," he repeated. How he could have such seeped such positivity in light of such tragedy is truly a miracle. My mom approached him and burst into tears, and he comforted her with an "I know, I know. But it's going to be alright." I told him how happy I was to hear he's playing with the band next weekend, and I told him we're all here for him...I didn't know really what to say.

Band practice will be intensely emotional. Will it be inappropriate to be light-hearted and have fun practicing our music? Should we all be morose or would it be better to be uplifting for J and help him in his quest to move on with his life? We start practice out with a devotion every time, but the guitarist said this time, he thinks we'll just pray in unison for one of our own. "All for the Lord, it's all for the Lord," the bassist always reminds us. And we're there to praise the Lord, that's for sure.

Speaking of the band, I received some nastiness yesterday at church too. I had just finished greeting the pastor and saying "See you next weekend!" when I was approached by one of the elder stateswomen of the church. She's 92, has never worn a seat belt and never will, has to sit on the only cushioned chair at Bible study, and is a colossal pain in the ass, opinionated crotch.

She stood there looking like she was waiting to talk to me, so as I looked around for my ma to leave (she was busy talking/crying with the late baby's grandma, who swore she saw Jesus holding the baby during communion). The Old Lady was just standing there, so I said good morning to her. She said, "You know, Andrea, I've BEEN to that Saturday service. That 'CONTEMPORARY' service. And THAT'S not CHURCH to ME," shaking her head. "Well, it IS to ME," I replied. I told her, "There are lots of different ways to worship God, and that's just one of them." I SO wish I had the balls to be snarkier in person than I can be when I write. I just can't think of good comebacks in the moment.

No, I wouldn't have told her, "Why don't you go outside and play hide-and-go-fuck-yourself." I guess my response was appropriate. Thankfully, Mariah approached me to save me from the Old Lady, Mariah being one of my vocalists who's temporarily left the band and informed me she wants to start singing with us again. "Thank God, Mariah, because *I'm* singing." "Oh, Annie. That's not good. You can't play and sing at the same time!" "I realize that," I said, "Please come back!!!" I should've said, "Mariah, you'll never guess what The Old Lady just said to me about our band!" and put her on the spot with her nasty comments, but I didn't think of it at the time. I was too relieved to get out of the conversation.

Time to go awaken the seemingly dead, no-doubt grumpy Luke.

**20 minutes into the morning routine, and we've already had the tighty-whitey vs. boxers argument (I caved and let him wear boxers), the "why is this shirt so stretchy?" random question, the "where is my belt?" drudgery, the "why are you being so mean?" lament, and a walrus honk in his bedroom that surely meant a "Fuck you, Mom." He's eating breakfast slowly, telling me that I'm talking too loud and farting at the table and blaming it on me or the walrus. His breakfast was meticulously laid out, as were his clothes, and he's slowly, really slowly, waking up. By the time we drive to school in 20 more minutes, he'll no doubt have nuggets of utterly non-sensical outbursts like he did the other day, when he abruptly proclaimed, "I'm Gerald Ford."

Try and have a maggot-free Monday.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Beautiful Ones

Quote for the Day

"Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?"

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Godfather? Spare me.

Isn't it an oxymoron when your godfather is an atheist? My ex-boyfriend's ex-girlfriend and her husband chose him as the godfather for their son, who is now a teenager. His godfatherly obligation is essentially showing up at one of the child's football games a couple of times a season. Apart from that, no Christian rearing is or has ever occurred.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but the godparent is supposed to fulfill the religious upbringing of the child in the event the child's natural parents are unable or incapable of raising the child in the proper religious tradition. The godparent should assist in encouraging the child to live as a Christian. Should this child lose his parents, God forbid, what sort of message will the godfather deliver in raising this person to be a practicing Christian, when he does not believe that God exists?

I found this definition of a godparent online:

"A Godparent: One who stands surety for another in the rite of Christian baptism. In the modern baptism of an infant or child, the godparent or godparents make profession of faith for the person being baptized (the godchild) and assume an obligation to serve as proxies for the parents if the parents are either unable or neglect to provide for the religious training of the child, in fulfillment of baptismal promises. In churches mandating a a sponsor, only one godparent is required; two (in most churches, of different sex) are permitted. Many Protestant denominations permit but do not require godparents to join the infant's natural parents as sponsors. In the Roman Catholic church, godparents must be of the Catholic faith."

Perhaps the choice of godparent by the ex-girlfriend and her husband was more symbolic than logical. And it certainly gives my ex-boyfriend something else by which to stroke his ego, because he's such a good person.

Boggles the mind.

"You think you're radical, but you're not so radical. In fact, you're just fanatical. A fanatical fuck."

"I Need $40 on 5....and thanks for the thought."

Willie at the gas station is Iranian, about 65 years old, and a practicing Christian, oddly enough.

He knows my ma and I pretty well. Whenever I go in to get gas, we chat up. Whenever I go for an oil change, we chat up. They're fair at that service station--they fix your car and don't screw you over, they throw in freebies, and they're just good people.

So I just went in for gas, as I was running on 1/4 of a tank, which makes me insanely OCD nervous, though I could get to De Kalb and still have gas to spare. Plus, I just got paid, so time to fill up the tank in the Rolling Death Trap, as my ex-husband liked to call my car.

Willie and I chatted up about my mom's recent vacation, as the last time I went in for gas, I was reveling in the fact that I'd have the house to myself for a few days. Willie's ALWAYS telling me to say hi to her, gives me little trinkets to give to her...I swear he's got a thing for her. ANYWAYS...

I handed Willie my credit card and told him I needed $40 on pump #5 and thought I could get away unscathed.

Willie said to me, "Say hi to your husband." I said, "I don't have a husband, Willie, I'm divorced."

"Aww. How long have you been divorced?" he asked me.

"Four years," I said, not wanting to explain that we've been separated for four but divorced for two. (Details, details.) "I live with my mom. Luke lives with me half the time and with his Daddy half the time," I explained.

"Is he a good Daddy?"

"Yes, Luke has a very good Daddy," I emphasized. "He's a good man."

Willie is weirdly intuitive and highly wise, typically. He's never met my ex-husband, Craig, and doesn't know that Craig has flatly told me in the past that there's no hope for a complete reconciliation between us, which makes me sad, but is reality. We still love each other; we're just not meant to be married to one another.

"You never know, your husband might come back to you. You just never know."

"I don't think so, Willie, but thanks for the thought,"I said.

"You never know! A good woman like you, you should have a good husband," Willie said.

"I had a good husband," I told him. "But I blew it." Why I shared this detail with Willie, I don't know. It was just the truth.

He winked at me as I signed my credit card receipt. "Have a good weekend, Willie," I said to him as I tried to make an exit out of the gas station to fill up my car.

"Never lose hope, sweetheart, and say hi to your mama."


So, So True. I've Lived a Good Story....

Friday, October 14, 2011

God Didn't Speak to Me Tonight; He Belched at Me.

Wanting desperately to reach out to my bassist and his family this week, I sent the following tonight after talking with my guitarist on the phone. He spoke with the bassist, who said enthusiastically that he wanted to play with us next weekend, while we were preparing to carry on without him for the time being. But he emphasized that he *wanted* to join us in worship via the band, that he planned on coming to services this weekend with his family, and that again, as he is wont to remind us, "it's all about the Lord." The family wants to be with their St. Paul family.

My guitarist and I talked about how the only reason they *wouldn't* come back would be out of embarrassment. But they've done nothing wrong. They have nothing to be ashamed of. An unspeakable horror happened to their family that hit us all right in the heart. My guitarist said that if any of us were stripped of our clothes in the sanctuary and exposed for all the sins we've individually committed, we'd all be embarrassed, for God doesn't grade our sins as being better or worse than other sins. We're all there to praise God by God's grace, not because we're all angels. He also reminded me about God's capacity for forgiveness: if the man who murdered the baby truly repents for his sins and asks God's forgiveness, God promises to grant it to him. Like I just said, God's not up there ranking our sins.

The bassist said that he's been overwhelmed by the love and support the congregation has shown his family through emails and phone calls this week, so I prayed on it and this is what the end result was:

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing.

Dear J & S,

I come to you tonight in unity and fellowship, my brother and sister in Christ Jesus. I've been wanting to reach out to you, but didn't know if it would be appropriate or accepted. We've only known one another for a couple of months, J, but your family struck me immediately as one of amazing faith, enthusiastic praise and admirable trust in the power of God's love. What you, as an individual and as a musician, have brought to the Praise Band is a wonderful reminder as to WHY we play for the congregation. You brought the faith aspect and the glory to Jesus back into the band at a time when we were all battling egos and conflicting artistically. Your presence, speaking for myself and what you and I have shared, has put the Praise back into the Praise Band. For that alone, I am grateful to know you and have the utmost respect for you as an exemplary Christian.

It's hard to think of the right words to say to anyone facing remarkable grief, not wanting to sound like a cliche, not wanting to overstate the obvious, not wanting to compound your existing sorrow with seemingly glib, bland expressions of sympathy. Your loss is one of remarkable circumstance, something which just can't be adequately addressed.

God promises us, in that old saying, that He'll never throw at us more than we can handle in one day. That He'll see us through. Sometimes, though, it feels like God breaks that promise and we are overwhelmed with the challenges that we face. Yet through those experiences, God ultimately strengthens us. He solidifies our faith while challenging our very core. His plans aren't necessarily congruent with ours, which is more than frustrating. It's maddeningly difficult. Somehow, though, through fervent prayer and constant grace, we make it. We don't deserve it; it's His gift to us through His unfailing love.

My prayer for your family has been that God continues to give you strength and what I prayed for most was that you would return to the loving fold of your St. Paul family. We *are* your brothers and sisters in the Lord. It'd be fruitless for me to say, "I'll do whatever I can to help you," or "if you need anything, feel free to call on me," because frankly, I wouldn't know what to say or do to give you peace other than to emphasize to you that your family is in my constant thought and prayer.

B called me tonight, to let me know that you wanted to play with the band next weekend. That *was* something I'd been praying for that God provided. My personal feeling is that continuing to praise Him via the band is a positive, healthy step towards your healing. That coming to worship with us is vital and to assure you that we welcome you without pretense and with open hearts. Church is the ultimate space of acceptance and love.

It was my turn to pick out the songs for next weekend, and I was having a difficult time picking out music that wasn't bass-centric, that went along with the Bible readings for the weekend, because I assumed we'd be playing without you for the time being, at least. So difficult that I had to surrender the song choices back to B. One of the songs that I was able to pick out, that I chose before (baby's name) passed away, was "We Want To See Jesus Lifted High." It's one of our most upbeat songs, during which B plays a couple of wicked guitar solos, and the congregation really gets into it. We're still going to do that number next weekend, with you on bass, because it is, after all, as you say, all about the Lord. We are there to generate enthusiasm towards Christ, and I, for one, am ecstatic that you've chosen to join us for the service.

On a personal note, I wanted to tell you, though this may be strange to hear, that I received a very valuable, miracle gift as a result of (baby's name)'s passing. It opened a door towards healing for me of a very difficult, traumatic experience I went through that ended a few months ago. I believe, as I believe with all connections, that God places people and events in our lives for very specific reasons at specific times when we need to learn lessons the most. I won't elaborate on what happened to me, for it is immaterial, but know that baby opened for me a psychological floodgate I was unable to face until today in therapy and during a talk with my Stephen minister from St. Paul. For that, I'm overcome with thanks to God and it gives (baby's name) a unique, special place in my heart.

Another verse that has always spoken to me:

Romans 5:2-5 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

I look forward to worshiping with you this weekend, should we attend the same service, and to playing beside you next weekend. All for the glory of God.

My heart wishes you, J &S, peace amid trial, grace amid sorrow, and strength amid doubt. Have faith. Have hope. He will not abandon you and neither will your St. Paul family.

With love in Christ,