Thus Far . . .

There is an old hymn entitled “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” that contains the line “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I come.”  As a child, I did not understand what the cranky old man from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” had to do with faith.

Then I found the word Ebenezer in scripture and was even more mystified.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned a little more about the usage of that word and what part it plays in faith.  After a series of battles between the nation of Israel and the Philistines ended when God caused confusion among the Philistines which allowed the people of Israel to defeat them, Samuel raised a huge stone as a memorial to God’s provision.  The word Ebenezer comes from the Hebrew words Eben ha ezer which means “stone of help” (check here for even more details!)  In I Sam. 7:12 we read, “Then Samuel took the stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen.  He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

Ever since I discovered what “raising an Ebenezer” meant, Ebenezers have become a significant part of my faith walk.  No, I’m not running around putting stones down everywhere!  Most of my personal Ebenezers are in the form of jewelry (ask me about my thumb ring sometime!) or tattoos.

I discovered today, that there is a place in my life that serves as a HUGE Ebenezer.

Hubby and I had the chance today to go back and visit our Alma Mater, Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  My dear husband was especially excited to visit the campus.  The baseball program was stopped a couple of years after we graduated (hubby played for three years) and needless to say, he was disappointed.  The program will start back up with the 2013/2014 school year and due to a VERY generous gift (something in the neighborhood of $5 million) a brand new stadium has been built for the program!  Hubby wanted to see the stadium and, if possible, meet the coach.  He not only got to meet the coach, he was gifted with an official team hat! To say he was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning would be an understatement!

Everywhere we went on that campus, we found fond memories joining us on our walk.  From memories of the old baseball field – I spent many hours in the stands! – to the dorms we lived in, the memories were everywhere and quick to find us!

In the Faculty Hall of Honor, I found pictures of three of the music profs I studied with.

Doc StewartDoctor Richard Stewart (“Doc Stewart” as he was affectionately known) was the director of Chorale, the vocal ensemble I was in, but he was so much more than just a director.  He was a surrogate father, a mentor, and a teacher who understood the importance of investing in the young adults he was working with.  So much of who I am as a musician and director is due in large part to that man and his instruction.  My Sophomore year started on a really lousy note and this man was one of a few professors who took a vested interest in helping me walk through the issue and come out stronger on the other side.  He was, hands down, my favorite teacher ever.

I was very involved in the theater world on campus.  Dr. Orpha Galloway was Doctor Gallowaythe music director for each production I was involved with.  She not only gave me the chance to be onstage, she also took a chance on a college junior with a passion for musical theater and allowed me to serve as assistant vocal director for a production of Sound of Music (I worked with the nun’s chorus!).  She definitely possessed the skill to handle the job herself and it meant the world to me that she allowed me to stretch my own talents in such a way!

Joyce HornIn the fall of 1991, I had one class and a directed reading (think independent study with LOTS of reading!) and Joyce Horn had agreed to be my faculty supervisor.  I was trying to juggle college, marriage, and being a mother of a newborn during that semester and Joyce insisted that I bring my newborn daughter to our twice monthly meetings.  The actual academic discussion only took a few minutes so she spent the rest of the time loving on my daughter.  As a young wife and new mother living 2 hours from her own parents, this “adoptive grandmother” touched my heart and did much to keep my sanity intact.  I doubt she knows just how much her willingness to love on my daughter touched a young mom’s heart!

We saw the building where we went on our first date to an on-campus concert, our first apartmenttook a picture of our first apartment (over there to the right!), reminisced about the various places that were significant to our relationship and experiences, and marveled over how much has changed.  As we wandered all over campus, faces of friends kept running through my mind.  Many of them I have stayed in touch with (thank you Facebook!) and I am blessed to still call them friends.  As we prepared to leave, I was overwhelmed with how deeply I was affected by my time on that campus.  So much of who I am as a musician and a theater “geek” is due to the experiences I had on that campus and the leadership I worked under.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, we have spent some of our time in Grand Rapids driving past the homes we lived and the place where the girls took dance class.  Our conversation has been full of “I remember . . . “, “Oh my gosh, that’s where we . . . ” and we’ve spent a couple of days with dear friends who were neighbors for a few years and we’ve reminisced about our shared experiences more than 10 years ago.

Grand Rapids, Michigan is a HUGE “Ebenezer” in my life.  It was in that city that I met my husband, had all four of my children, “found myself” as a musician and theater performer, made lifelong friends and took my first steps into becoming who I am supposed to be.  Spending time remembering all that happened here has shown me so clearly just where and how God has led.  I’m reminded of how blessed I am and excited to see what is yet to come!

Vacation Fun

Take 2 adults in their sixties, add their oldest offspring plus her husband and their four children – three girls aged (21, 20, and 18) and a son (17) – and toss in two more grandkids – aged almost 11 and 6 – whose parents had to work on that particular day and take the whole crew to South Haven, Michigan and what do you get?  A walk to the lighthouse, wading in Lake Michigan, ice cream, crazy hats, antique shops, a wine tasting (for three of those over 21!), window shopping, pictures of a mama duck with two babies, an old sailing ship and a great day!!  The kids were awesome, everyone was super flexible about our very spontaneous agenda.  The drastic range in ages didn’t matter and we all came home tired and content.

Crazy hats!

Crazy hats!

The youngest in our group got soaked clear up both legs!

The youngest in our group got soaked clear up both legs!

Wading in the Lake

The lighthouse

The lighthouse

Where the Heart Is

I’m sure I’m not the first person to say that family isn’t just about a biological connection.  True, that biological connection is a place to start, but we’ve all known people (maybe it’s even ourselves) who had family members that were estranged.  Simply having some sort of biological connection does not guarantee that people will be close.  And let’s be honest – those that we are related to know where ALL of our buttons are and do a great job pushing them often!

With all of that being sad, I am truly grateful to have spent a week with my sister and her family, all of whom I treasure.  My brother-in-law and I share the common ground of the degrees we pursued in college.  My sister and I have overcome an age difference of 9 years to be friends and my nephews and niece?  I think they are pretty terrific (and I’m not biased).

The fact is, there is one whole side of my biological family that I have had no contact with since my sophomore year in high school.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not looking for sympathy.  They cut themselves off from my parents, my sisters and I, and I figure it’s their loss.  But the absence of family from that side of the tree makes me cherish the family that I am fortunate enough to have a relationship with.

Yes, sometimes we annoy one another.  But they are my family and I love each and every one of them.

The Passing of Time

Being on vacation visiting family has been one long experience of “When did I get this old?!”  Let me give a little bit of background – I’m the oldest of three and there is a pretty significant age difference between us.  I’m 6+ years older than the next sister in line and nine years older than the baby (we were actually ten years apart in school).  I may be unusual in my tendency to “freeze” people at a particular age or place in time.

We are on vacation, visiting my baby sister and her family in San Antonio, Texas.  She and her family just welcomed baby Harley, making them a family of five so we’ve enjoyed getting acquainted with him to say nothing of the chance to love on his older brother and sister.

But life is full of reminders as to just how much time has passed.

My oldest child will be 21 in just 6 days.  What?!

Hubby and I will celebrate our 24th anniversary in January. We’re only a little over one year away from our silver anniversary.  Am I really that old?!

One of the “must do” tasks on our vacation was getting the Senior pictures taken for child number 3.  My third child is going to be a Senior?!  When did I give permission for that to happen?!

My baby is 16.  No, I’m not okay with that!

My baby sister has three kids and just celebrated 9 years of marriage and her number two child will enter kindergarten. How is that possible when she was just born like a year ago?!

The older I get, the faster the time seems to fly.  So I will enjoy the newest members of the family, celebrate the big milestones, and realize that these big changes are how life is SUPPOSED to go!

Excuse me but I have little ones to go love on!