Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christus Natus Hodie

Oh, I have been waiting for this for such a long time. It always feels like longer than Advent. Midnight Mass went well. Humbling, terrifying, exhilarating; what a privilege to do the work I have, in this community. Then I came home to wrap presents (I'd "hidden" them a bit too well so this took some searching) and read a sermon from a friend who'd kindly sent it (at Nearest Church I can't always hear them from the organ box) and it said exactly, exactly what I needed to read.

God-is-love. God-with-us. God-is-Love-with-us. And we are invited to participate, to pass it on. I know this, but I forget so easily and having it pointed out in big flashing neon letters is extraordinarily helpful.

In just over 7 hours I need to be at church, practising. Also, I've been awake for nearly 22 hours. So I think that I will stop here in favour of sleep.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Gratitude and O Virgo Virginum

1) I slipped on the ice earlier -- refrozen slush is the worst. I don't seem to have injured myself, though.
2) As an organist for a small parish church with not too much going on, I can practise pretty much whenever I want.
3) Leftovers from last night have fed us well today.
4) After a comment from a friend suggesting it might be useful, I opened a Christmas present early. Heated gloves! Quite amazing.
5) Sweetie tucked up in bed beside me as I write this. Because the 25th and 26th are Saturday and Sunday, the next two days are statutory holidays. This means he'll be home for four days in a row.

<i>O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be?
For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after.
Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me?
The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.</i>

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Gratitude and Emmanuel

1) old friends
2) new friends
3) both sitting in our living room, giggling
4) gin
5) the internet.

I'm rather tired now. Having people over for dinner so soon before Christmas is a bit mad; this weekend I'll be playing as many services in 3 days as I usually do in a month. But I'm really glad I did it.

Besides, there's plenty of leftover lasagne...

<i>O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.</i>

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Gratitude and O Rex Gentium

1) Shiny people are coming for dinner tomorrow
2) I found something to play on Friday night
3) Found some lovely mohair yarn in a discount shop; colours I'd been watching for at 1/6th the price
4) People have been lovely and supportive even when I've been stressed and impatient
5) From now, for the next six months, the days grow longer.

<i>O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay. </i>

Monday, 20 December 2010

Gratitude -- O Oriens

1) The snow has not messed up any of my travel plans. Admittedly this is because I haven't got any travel plans, but it's still quite good not having to worry about it.
2) The piano has been fitted with a dehumidifier which will help it stay in tune.
3) Dad put draught excluder on the  front door. I bought this over a year ago, but didn't get around to dealing with it.
4) A different position for the heater at church meant my hands didn't get so cold while I was practising today. It was still uncomfortable, but they didn't stop working.
5) I made dumplings for dinner, they were tasty.

The night shelter was over capacity last night. Next week it has a break and guests stay at the Crisis-run shelter. Then the next week I'll be out of town...

<i>O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal
and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death</i>

Gratitude -- O Clavis David

1) The visit from my father is going reasonably well. We're all having to make an effort, but on the whole things are calm, even pleasant.
2) I'm receiving so many beautiful Christmas cards. I will hang them on the Christmas tree soon (we haven't many decorations and it solves the problem of displaying the cards).
3) The chocolates I made yesterday turned out all right, I think.
4) I went to Leafy Suburb Church for their Nine Lessons and Carols. There I found something I had lost, delivered gifts to dear ones, had a chat with my father which was challenging and good, and made a snow angel. Also I got to sing some good music!
5) Sweetie is quite unremittingly wonderful. Yes, I'm soppy. But he is.

<i>O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death</i>

So, last year I had key problems when I went to record this antiphon. This morning, the padlock on the gate at church had froze, and I had to hop the (low) wall to get in.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Gratitude and O Radix Jesse

1) Sweetie bought me a better snow shovel
2) My hands are soft from cocoa butter; I was working with chocolate this afternoon
3) Although the insulation in this house leaves something to be desired, the heating does work and if it comes to it we have enough money to run additional heaters
4) Lots of blankets and cozy sweaters, which we all use before additional heaters
5) The way a good batch of snow reflects the streetlamps, so even though the sun set over six hours ago, everything is orange and strange.

<i>O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.</i>

Friday, 17 December 2010

Gratitude and O Adonai

1) The piano has been tuned and had some repair/maintenance done on it. It's much nicer to play now.
2) I did a really solid chunk of practising this morning.
3) It snew, and I shoveled before too much of it turned into packed ice. I like the snow, myself, but I know some people have problems getting anywhere when it's icy. I'm grateful that my joints are good enough that I can shovel.
4) My housemate learned a lot on her trip to Foreign Parts, and told me all about it over lunch earlier.
5) Later, Sweetie and dad and I are going for a nice dinner.

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

I struggle with laws. "Honour your mother and father" is particularly difficult today.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Gratitude and O Sapientia

1) My father arrived safely.
2) So did my housemate, who has been working overseas
3) Choir worked hard tonight
4) I'm catching up with the mess in the kitchen, and feeling less stressed about it.
5) Snow tonight in Upper Suburbia. It didn't settle but made me smile as I watched it fall.

Thanks be to God.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High
reaching from one end to the other
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Yes, it's another gratitude list.

1) I saw a friend, an ex-housemate of mine, for dinner today.
2) With company from a different friend I was able to get some tidying and minor housework done today, without feeling too overwhelmed or stressed by it.
3) My student's grandparent fixed my bicycle light -- I couldn't get it open, had broken the tab off, but he managed to pry it. Now I can change the batteries.
4) I cycled to Neighbouring Neighbourhood to do banking. I've really been enjoying cycling.
5) I didn't cry once today, and it wasn't because I was trying to hold back tears, it was just that I wasn't feeling so low as I have been. This might just be that I'm not so far behind on sleep as I was on Monday and Tuesday, or it might be the higher than usual amount of social contact I've had in the last few days, or any number of things, but I'm still glad of it.

Thanks be to God.

My father arrives tomorrow for a 2-week visit. I am having very mixed feelings about this. It isn't always an easy relationship and visits are generally A Big Deal since we live on different continents. Mostly, I wish the visit weren't just now, when I have so much music to learn and won't be able to spend as much time as I'd like and my brain is playing silly buggers. I don't feel like I have the spare cycles to deal with a parental visit right now and I don't really want him to think that I'm always in this sort of state... And then, of course, I feel guilty for being so ungrateful. After all, I'm fortunate he can afford to visit at all, he's well enough, we are on relatively good terms and so on.

I have been being grumpy and short with Sweetie, and then realising it, and sinking straight into "If I am too difficult/grumpy/horrible/ill/NotGoodEnough, people will stop loving me and they will go away and leave me all alone." Tears, streams of apologies. Sweetie is wonderful about it, just hugs me and holds me and tells me I'm not horrible, just overtired and tetchy. Still, I wish I were treating him better.

It is late, and I am tired...

Better late thanks than never

Yesterday's gratitude list:
1) I finished crocheting a scarf I am making (gift for someone). I need to tie the ends in and wash and block it and then it will be done.
2) Though I felt very bleak in the morning, people were unremittingly lovely to me and by evening I was on a much more even keel.
3) I didn't get all my work done -- was really struggling to concentrate -- but it turned out to be all right in the end.
4) NO MORE long commute to North Of The Hill until January! Yesterday was the last day!
5) I had lunch with a friend who is quite amazing and who is also going through a really bad patch right now; she's keeping her chin up, staying brave but recognising she'll have bad days, and just being generally inspirational.

Thanks be to God.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Gratitude: quite a few of Maslow's wossnames.

1) Lovely people keep on keeping in touch with me even when I am dropping balls all over the place and not communicating as well as I'd like.
2) I didn't sleep through my alarm this morning. I'm always worried I will on Mondays when I go help with breakfast at the shelter. I haven't yet.
3) Online charity shop. This means I can search for things from brands I know fit me (at my height, random charity shops very seldom have anything). How did I not know about this before?
4) I'm still not keeping up with household stuff in any meaningful way, but I'm feeling less stressed about being behind than I was a week or two ago.
5) I had a really good lesson this evening with a student who has been difficult for ages. It was good to see him smile again and be excited about our plans for the next lesson... it was also good to be reminded that whatever else happens, right now teaching is still part of who I am, part of what I'm for. Of course, I can't take full credit for this evening's positivity; it's a complex situation and there are many other factors. Even if that were not the case some of my best teaching is when I can "get out of the way", provide a safe space and a jumping-off point and let things unfold as they will. But seeing some of that happen with this child who has been so sullen reminded me why I try to do that.

Thanks be to God.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Gaudete Sunday: carol service gratitude

1) the organ made some strange noises, but still works
2) nobody set themselves on fire
3) nobody set anyone else on fire
4) the vicar seemed pleased
5) some of the singing was all right...

Gratitude; Test post from e-mail

1) my back hurt less today
2) the temperature has risen enough that our heating is actually keeping up. I am hoping it has also melted the worst of the very dangerous ice in some areas.
3) despite today being a working day there was time for a slow morning with Sweetie.
4) my keyboard skills are immproving. Tonight at a party I ended up at the piano, playing carols. A year ago I couldn't have read well enough.
5) the commute to work when I get up will be walkable.

Friday, 10 December 2010


1) A lovely partner who carried a heavy thing for me this evening

2) The opportunity to catch up with a colleague from Academic Institution

3) Ibuprofen. Chamomile tea. Both of these things being helpful to me and available cheaply.

4) Physio exercises that I know will reduce the amount of pain I'm in

5) Not having had to deal with this much pain for several months.

I'm not sure what I did. But this will pass, and it is bearable, and I can still do things. For all this I am grateful.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Gratitude List on a day of protests

1) I am grateful for the education I have had. There's been rather a lot of it -- an Honours degree at a good music college, but also lots of private music tuition when I was a child, and of course the compulsory education required in Canada.

Even though my subject might be seen as inessential and much of my paid work is not directly related to my higher education training, I don't think any of this education has been wasted.

2) I am grateful that there are people who believe strongly enough in collective funding of education, and in the power of protest, to get out there and protest the university fees structure proposed (and, today, passed) by the government.

3) I am grateful that there is technology which lets people at the protests broadcast their descriptions of events, in real time, without it having to pass through official censors. Yes, I've been watching all this on Twitter for some of today. It's heady stuff.

4) I am grateful that we have free-at-the-point-of-delivery medical care in this country, so that those protesters and police officers injured today have been able to get treatment without worrying about whether they need insurance.

5) I am grateful the people I know who were there all seem to be okay, at least the ones I know about. There are still people held in various places, so that could change, but it's good that the ones I know about are safe.

Lord, have mercy.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Advent Year A

I had avoided starting an Advent discipline; I thought maybe doing some writing every day, or some sort of music-related thing, might be useful reflection. Then I realised that it would just be one more thing for me to be perfectionist about, and that maybe "getting through Advent" is discipline enough for those of us with responsibility for leading others in worship.

These last few weeks I've been leaning heavily on friends, getting lots of hugs online and in person, being listened to patiently by people who really are rather too busy but manage to make the time anyway. The message that has been coming through is that the care and support that pulled me out of the pit last time are still there.

The last few days I've also been e-mailing one friend in particular, not with my usual meandering e-mails full of the adventures of the day with added musings, but even longer letters full of rather a lot of analysis, comparing my last serious depressive episode with how I'm feeling now. She's sparing with her advice but has had some useful insights.

I could spend several hours and many paragraphs explaining how I've come to this conclusion, but I think I do need the structure of some sort of Advent discipline right now, and I think it needs to be something gratitude-based. Not to beat myself over the head with my many blessings, and not to ignore or discount the mess the world seems to be in and the huge amount of work ahead to make God's kingdom known, but to hone my perception of God in everyday life.

I don't want to make this too complicated or too rigid so I am going to go with a daily gratitude list and try not to sweat too much if I miss a day.

1) I am grateful for the green tomato chutney I just ate with cheese and crackers. I made this earlier this year out of tomatoes from the garden -- we had a bumper crop and couldn't manage to eat them all fresh.
2) I am grateful for the group I performed with this evening, who have in their way become a big part of my life over the last couple of years.
3) I am grateful for the care and attention immediately directed my way when I started to talk about low mood or depression or whatever this current dark cloud is.
4) I am grateful for all the care and attention that people normally show me, when I'm not in crisis management mode and nothing is "wrong" but things are just ticking over. Even if I can't see it, or don't normally notice it... right now I assert that I believe it is there.
5) I am grateful for the heated underblanket in my bed. I have trouble not seeing this as extravagant and wasteful, to be honest, but in the cooler weather we've had recently and with the lack of insulation in the home we rent, being able to climb into a warmed-up bed and let the muscles in my back relax properly is a huge help.

And it is late, and I am tired, and that underblanket is sounding mighty good about now so I will stop there.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Filling what is empty

I've been volunteering at a local shelter one morning a week. It's a sort of floating church emergency shelter, at a different church every night of the week. Sunday nights/Monday mornings it's at a United Free church down the road from where I live. I'm on mornings because I work too many evenings to do those and frankly, I think my health probably isn't up to the overnights.

The guests are referred from a day centre; the shelter is given a list of people to let in. People not on the list are turned away unless there is space after a certain time. There are rules (no drugs, no alcohol, no weapons), there are boxes to tick. I don't know how I feel about this; I can see the point of trying to make it safe, but how do we help those who, through no fault of their own, cannot tick the right boxes? Lord, have mercy. And yet, the other week I heard another volunteer explaining to one of the guests how to get to the day centre, which boxes to tick. Clearly if there is space we take anyone we can.

The day centre offers hot meals and so we don't do a cooked breakfast; rather it's cereal, toast with jam, tea and coffee, occasionally some leftover dessert from the night before. I spend the morning filling milk jugs, sugar bowls, coffee machines, insulated flasks, the dishwasher, the cupboards. Things spill and I wipe up as I go along, almost unconsciously, a reflex when there is nothing left to fill. I don't talk to people much, and I hope that doesn't make me seem aloof.

There are rules about physical contact, about agreeing to meet guests outside of shelter hours. I'm not sure how I feel about this; I do think loving and kind relationships are important, and that physical contact can be part of that. How horrible must it be to have nobody to hug you? But I'll freely admit I'm also relieved not to have to make the decision, relieved that what I might be willing to give has been put into a nice, safe box. Lord, have mercy.

This past Monday someone asked me if I'd marry him. I declined as politely as I could, aware that I am culturally way out of my depth. Another volunteer said that's fairly normal and is a sign that I'm being accepted. I'm not sure about that, but the conventional dating scene must really suck if you're homeless.

The shelter runs until March.

I don't have anything profound to write about it, not yet.

Maybe there isn't anything profound to say. People are homeless and I've decided to try and help meet some of their immediate needs for food and shelter during a difficult time of year -- in a very safe and cautious and organised and cowardly way -- and that's all there is to it. I don't particularly enjoy or dislike the work itself; I don't come back feeling all aglow with lovingkindness. I come away wishing I could do more, and wondering why the shelter is so warm compared to our house (which is a bit nippy in the mornings), and whether the pregnant woman will get some more stable support once her child is born (does she know the father? is he homeless, too? Is he kind to her?) or whether we're going to be dealing with a baby come January, and reminding myself to bring some jam along next week.