advent and riverdance

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The girls and I went to see Riverdance a few weeks ago.

Allow me to rewind by at least 14 years to our very first encounter.

The girls were  8 and 12, maybe younger, we can’t quite place the exact year.

We sat high up in the auditorium and from the opening note and shoe tapping

unison, I was smitten.

At intermission, I sped past the concessions (good call) and the restroom (bad call) and

plunked down money for a CD and not a DVD but a VHS tape.

Yes, it was a long time ago.

I skipped back to my seat before the lights extinguished and quickly was entranced

once again by the singing and dancing of Riverdance.

During the final curtain call, I sniffed back tears as I clapped along with the audience.

It’s easy to be swept away in the moment, make an impulsive purchase only to later

shake your foolish head, this was not one of those occasions.

I played the CD incessantly, in the car and while I did chores.

When I was discouraged, I would press play and my mood was elevated.

I can’t explain it, but Riverdance reached a place deep inside me.

The music is haunting and joyful, the dancing is exhausting to witness yet celebratory.

Somehow when Riverdance was on its farewell tour a number of years ago,

I wasn’t able to attend.

Major disappointment.

When I learned the company was touring to celebrate 20 years, I decided

even if I went solo, I was going.

Keeping my cool, I casually asked Court if she was interested in seeing the show

and she said sure.

I inquired of Carlen and she kind of groaned and said yeah I guess so.

I didn’t wait for any minds to change and

proceeded to purchase tickets online.

I had a budget and decided the 1st balcony would be just fine.

No matter how I tried, I kept getting an error message and could not complete my order.

I was forced to call a ticket agent. I say forced because the site clearly stated

not to call for ticket orders.

Thankfully my plea was answered by the most kind helper,

who inquired about my seat selection and once she had this information,

she asked if I wanted closer seats.

Absolutely but my budget and we are three short women who do not want to risk

our view being obliterated by tall patrons of the arts.

I suspected she wanted to make a higher dollar sale, but she assured me

she had orchestra level tickets for the same price and this way we would see their faces.

You want to see their faces.

Sold.

So off we three short women hustled through downtown Portland in pursuit of

Celtic merriment.

We found our section entrance and our seats. Superb.

Then I got a little giddy.

As I fidgeted in my seat, I wondered if the same magic would be

present. I knew every song, the order and the timing of every breath of each vocalist.

As the lights dimmed and the first tones of the music vaulted into the room, I found

myself already crying.

Black hat.

Wand.

Rabbit.

Magic.

Breathe, I reminded myself.

Simply enjoy the event.

I exhaled and  let the Riverdance world captivate me. Again.

And because I knew this music by heart, I also knew when it would end.

I felt equally sad and happy but grateful it lived up to the memory.

The crowd rose to their feet from floor to ceiling and clapped endlessly

and the dancers tapped faster and faster and stopped only in obedience

to muscle fatigue.

Carlen (she who previously groaned) leaned across Courtney to say she was surprised

how well she knew the music and when she realized it was ending she felt sad.

Fist pump.

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Over sandwiches and sodas, we debriefed about Riverdance.

It wasn’t until that moment we realized how much Riverdance had become a part of the

soundtrack of our three lives. The girls would probably add The Wiz as well.

By now, nearly 800 words invested, it is clear how deep my affection

runs for this stage show.

I believe what truly moves me even beyond the music

and the dancing is laying hold of excellence.

Excellence strengthens the beat of my heart and floods my eyes.

Do you know what I mean?

It’s a gymnast sticking a landing at the Olympics or a diver achieving a rip entry into the pool.

It’s fingers coursing over black and white keys creating a soul-shaking melody.

Sometimes it’s a group of children singing one song in all sorts of tunes, yet it is not

one note shy of perfection.

Excellence usually requires hard work and effort but other times it simply arises

from the purest of hearts.

*****

Are you wondering about the title of this post?

Well, here’s the thing.

It’s Advent, the season of marking the 4 or sometimes even 5 Sundays

before Christmas.

Oh how I love Advent but I have often made it difficult.

I have attempted to do too many activities and readings to commemorate the

occasion, by the middle of December, I am defeated and exhausted.

This is what I have realized about Advent and the approaching birth of Christ.

The verses and passages from scripture are so familiar.

If you are a follower of Christ, you know them by heart.

You know the order and what comes next.

Even if you aren’t inclined to open a Bible, break out Charlie

Brown Christmas and give a listen to Linus

orating from the book of Luke,

this season is steeped with familiarity.

You know the story.

Often I wonder when approaching God’s Word if it will be full

of the thrill and wonder from when I first believed.

I curl up in a chair when the lights are low, wade through

the same passages for the same reason, for the same season

and hope that the sameness won’t abolish the glory and mystery.

It’s a circle without end because I long for wonder but I desperately need sameness.

I need Jesus to be the same yesterday, today and forever.

I need to read those familiar words because they place me in the best

seat for each stage of my life.

His words equally bring me to tears and create smile lines.

The Bible is the word track of my life.

This season of Advent, I am not doing more because often

it was about proving to God I was willing to give Him

a big stage show of my love.

His coming needs the center stage spotlight,not my tap dancing.

I am breathing,

lighting a candle each night and speaking or listening to time-tested words.

I will sit in my assigned and paid for seat, pour over His words and

let the curtain rise in front of my face long enough to see His excellence

and beauty.

Whether I am solo or among the masses,

I want to see His face.

Because I am smitten, entranced and captivated by Him.

Again and again.

Amen and amen.

And do you know what?

The lines in my smile will deepen as the promised ending approaches.

Excellent.

 

an embarrassment of riches

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I meant to write this post several weeks ago.

Usually putting off writing a post is due to an inadequate amount of

time to tap my thought upon a keyboard or the words shouldn’t be shared.

Here’s hoping it’s the former reason.

In my last post, I wrote about our late August trip to the beach.

I mentioned our time on the sand, what I didn’t mention was our time

on land, more specifically the boardwalk area of Seaside, Oregon.

Allow me to back track for a moment.

Carl, Caleb and I had visited the beach earlier in the summer and during one of

the days, we spent a little time in an arcade.

We had accumulated quite a few tickets but it never seems like the number

of tickets compared to the “price” of the prizes lines up the way you hope.

Been there?

We huddled and decided  we would return before summer’s end

and Caleb could add to his ticket bounty and surely acquire the most

amazing prize 😉

So one Saturday, the three of us headed to the beach, for cooler weather

but this time we grabbed  one of Caleb’s friends Archie.

We were in a celebratory mood as only days earlier

Archie had finally traversed his way off the waiting list and would

be attending middle school with Caleb.

We spent a chatty 90 minutes in the car, drove into the beach town,

picked up some bagel sandwiches to round out our cooler full of

snacks, and headed to the arcade.

Not gonna lie, I was a bit put out that the weather was very warm (again) on

the coast. I will completely own being a Pacific Northwest hot weather baby.

I also didn’t feel like spending money for me to play games, just for the boys

and that included Carl.

Tickets were starting to leak out of the boys’ pockets

and Carl and I watched the boys play a game

throwing balls at rows of stuffed clowns.

Fabulous idea to me.

Two of these games stood side-by-side and once one

became available, Carl asked me to join him.

Despite my resolve, hitting clowns is right up my alley,

I grabbed a ball and we made a great

team and added to the ticket booty.

Carl slid his game card  to play a second game. This time Carl told me

to aim for the lower row (I took no offense at his direct hit at

my lack of height) and I consented to his strategy.

As the game started, I quickly dispatched of the bottom row and Carl

demonstrated his superb crushing skills.

I was able to assist as each row was resurrected to be clobbered once again.

I could feel a small crowd gather behind us, but we kept throwing and chuckling.

The game was over and we discovered we narrowly missed

the score to earn 500 tickets.

Carl suggested playing once more while I worried about the people waiting in line.

But he slid his card as the tickets continued to spit out from the machine.

And they kept coming out of the machine.

And they kept coming out of the machine without end.

Carl and I looked at each other puzzled and wondered how could this be happening.

We looked behind us and shrugged our shoulders and widened our eyes as the people

behind us began to peer over our shoulders.

We kept repeating that we didn’t win the bonus.

But the tickets wouldn’t stop.

Carl jogged over to the ticket counter and explained our plight.

The ticket guy calmly said,

“You must have gotten the high score and won the bonus which is 500 tickets”

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Carl came back and explained to me and the growing crowd.

We were surprised and I have to say a bit embarrassed.

Once the tickets f i n a l l y stopped, we told the anxiously waiting people

they could have the game we had already paid for because we were done.

My mood now matched Carl’s good one and I ran off to play one of my favorite games.

After my game fun, I found my husband laughing with a few fellow arcade dweller

and the boys alternately giving each other high-fives and giggling.

They had just played Spin-N-Win.

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One boy pulled the lever to spin the wheel and the other boy hit the middle button

hoping to hit the smallest of slivers marked 250.

Archie had just hit the 250 mark thus the cheering and the hand celebration.

This photo is their second attempt switching places and you can see the tickets from the

previous attempt.

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Caleb hit the 250 mark as well and there was more rejoicing and so many tickets.

They played the game a few more times and  never yielded the same results.

We turned in the tickets from both arcade outings, split the loot down the middle

and the boys each came home with a Oregon root beer mug and some candy.

I wanted to share this story not because we won 1000 tickets playing 3 games.

I wanted to share this story because of the two different responses.

Carl and I were shocked and searched for an explanation for this unexpected windfall.

Caleb and Archie were full of delight and joy.

Caleb and Archie didn’t ask any questions, they simply received with open hands.

Carl and I looked around, felt the pressure of the crowd and  were

a few shades of embarrassed.

Caleb and Archie had unabashed glee and everyone within earshot craned

their necks to gain a better view.

They didn’t care who happened to witness their victory dance.

They kept trying to recapture the wonder whereas Carl and I scurried away.

They never stopped smiling or saying it had been the best arcade day ever.

I’m not sure if Carl and I thought an arcade ticket cop would come and take

us far, faraway but we should have done a happy dance instead of a private

high-five off to the side of the arcade.

Where has my wonder gone?

When did I become so concerned with what others think?

Who taught me to question unanticipated gifts?

Perhaps I have taught myself this tragic opinion.

So today, I want to ask you:

Are you allowing wonder to be a part of your life?

Do you believe wonder is simply child’s play?

What has replaced your sense of wonder?

Are you able to embrace unanticipated riches without embarrassment?

Are you willing to open wide your hands and receive each and

every gifts you been given?

I don’t mean tickets made of paper but the totality of your life gifts.

Some gifts you can be held or hugged and others are simply a blink away

Seek, pursue and hunt for wonder in the corners of your days.

Spin the wheel.

Throw down your hand and allow yourself to

stop and gaze up at wonder.

Break into a merry dance even if you are circled by spectators.

Better yet spread the high-fives around the crowd.

Wonder deserves to be uncovered and shared.

When we left the arcade, we passed a couple who stood behind

us and then played the game vacated by Caleb and Archie.

They had witnessed the avalanche of tickets and shook their

heads in tandem with ours.

None of us could resist exchanging knowing grins and repeating

our shared sentiments of disbelief.

When you stumble upon wonder, it’s nearly impossible for it to remain contained,

it leaks onto others creating heart space only it can inhabit.

What ball do you need to throw?

What wheel do you need to spin?

What button do you need to press?

What mood do you need to release?

Allow wonder to be dispensed in a steady

stream pooling around your feet.

**photos by permission

friday joy (wonder edition)

Our summer rhythm of the last decade has been a bit upended this year.

The combination of my returning to work, the hot weather and life events  colliding with

routine  has made me feel like we have lived the past months literally

by the seat of our pants, well make that capris or shorts.

We came off of a few days at the beach back into routine and quickly realized

we had no plan for Caleb’s days.

Gulp.

Courtney was on a road trip taking her college best friend to her first teaching job

in Texas and Carlen was working as she should be.

We limped through Monday with Carl coming home at lunch to munch

and shoot baskets with Caleb.

I adjusted my hours to be home an hour earlier which also meant

a shorter commute time 🙂

and sent out few text message pleas (begging) and

friends helped immediately and into next week as well.

Grateful.

It was a triumph to get to Friday, my day off and what was on Caleb’s mind was doing

something outside of the house.

I definitely had my list of somethings as well but Caleb was the priority.

He began the day by FINALLY mastering the art of paper airplanes by reading

a section out of this book:

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Simple fulfilling joy.

We had a unhurried lunch at Chapel Pub.

I wanted to eat outside because we could but Caleb wanted to sit

in the air conditioning. I couldn’t argue as these days it is a gift

not to be covered in sweat.

Caleb is approaching 12.

There is still the little boy humor which I have been told

and seen plenty of evidence doesn’t evaporate…ever.

We have begun to have conversations richer in-depth and meaning.

We talked about how it feels to not have Mom always, for the most part, available

to his every need.

He expressed his excitement and nervousness for his new middle school but is

still really sad about how much he will miss his friends in other schools.

He’s holding his breath to find out if he will get to learn to play the guitar in

school next year as a year-long focus or one of his art rotations.

He talked about starting a band with friends.

He always politely declines when asked if he wants to see the children’s menu.

It was a first as he took his time over the menu and ordered something other than a

cheeseburger.

He snapped up my phone and took a picture of me.

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He submitted to a selfie I didn’t have in mind.

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This is 11.

We paid the bill and walked over to the library to grab my waiting book loot

and for Caleb to collect on his reading.

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Our next stop was a nickel arcade.

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We raced around and tried our best to amass as

many tickets as a $5 bag of nickels would allow.

I got to play several games of Centipede so my day was complete.

When it came time to redeem the ticket winnings, I found myself

wanting to direct Caleb to other prizes, better “deals”, you know more

bang for your buck.

If this was truly the case of getting a good deal, we should never have

set foot in the arcade as there really is no way to come out ahead for

any outlay of nickels.

In the end, he spent 490 of his 500 tickets on these items:

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A giant pencil and pen and a mini whoopee cushion.

The man at the counter told Caleb he still had 10 tickets to

spend but Caleb said that he was good with what he spent.

But then he decided to buy me two mini Tootsie rolls for 8 tickets.

The counter man said he could have three.

Caleb gasps and with large eyes said “thanks”

and it was the first time I saw the man smile during our visit.

Shared wonder.

We made our final descent towards home but not before

Caleb cashed in his summer reading prize with a  free Slurpee.

(This prize redemption has ceased to change it is always a free Slurpee.)

The days are long and often toasty.

Each moment can easily be filled with essential tasks but what if

now and then we allowed our seconds to be saturated by spending

time in the midst of wonder.

Or lifting our eyes from the relentless black and white lists and

beholding the magnificent shades of wonder which are everywhere.

I recently heard Rob Bell say:

“We need to make it our discipline to not lose wonder.”

I agree.

Wonder is an 11 year-old reaping the reward of the patience practice

of creating until  the first successful flight.

Wonder is found in venturing outside your usual order and tastes.

Wonder does not come packaged in perfectly posed and focused photos.

Wonder is recognizing new paths don’t obliterate the tried

and true ones.

Wonder might just be found while plucking the wrong strings

attempting to bring forth music.

Wonder can be found in a bad investment of nickels.

Wonder is getting something a little extra and puffing up with gratitude.

Wonder can certainly be slurped through a straw.

Wonder doesn’t wait until the house is clean, the fridge is well-stocked

and you are sufficiently rested.

Wonder comes when you let your lungs expand, hands unclench

and surrender to the call,

the practice,

the discipline

of scouting for wonder.

Still need convincing my Friday was full of wonder?

wonder (noun):

  • a cause of astonishment or admiration: marvel
  • a miracle
  • a feeling caused by seeing something that is very surprising,
    beautiful, amazing, etc.
  • the quality of exciting amazed admiration
  • rapt attention or astonishment at something
    awesomely mysterious or new to one’s experience
  • a feeling or doubt or uncertainty

When was the last time you experienced wonder?

Be a wonder seeker.