Let Loving Hearts Enthrone Him

Last Saturday, I went to the Candlelight Concert of the Tacoma Youth Chorus–the group that I had been in for nine years when I graduated high school. It was great to see some people whom I hadn’t seen in a few years, catch up a little, listen to music. Alumni were invited to sing a couple songs on stage, which was a lot of fun. I so miss being a part of a music group, performing like that with other people is unlike any other experience. Definitely on my list of things to do as soon as feasible in my life.

If you’ve never participated in organized singing–not just like, the national anthem or something–it really is a special experience. Similar to sports teams, I guess, or anything like that where you’re cooperating with a group. But it has a feeling all its own. Creating beauty like that, it’s just exactly what I needed. Still need.


One of the very surfacy things that I love about the Christmas season is all the baking. Since baking is very much my scene, an excuse to do it in excess and have everyone just be like “yeah that’s a totally normal amount of baking” is wonderful. There are a lot more things to bake on my list but so far, I’ve done shortbread cookies (including a delicious orange cranberry iteration), peppermint cheesecake (including my first time making ganache), and fig bread pudding (which is as close to figgy pudding as I’ve ever come). All delicious, thanks for asking. And beautiful, so here are some pictures.

If you are in my physical proximity and would like to bake together some time, let’s do it. It truly is such a joy for me and is so much better when doing it with other people. The above were baked with my mom, step mom, and brother, respectively. Let’s make something tasty together.


It’s wild to be posting this Christmas entry what feels like so early, since it’s on a Wednesday this year. There’s a whole week to go. And likewise next week, my New Year’s post will come on Boxing Day. But it would be remiss of me to neglect the kitties and so I will share a few more pictures because cats.

There are few things better than cuddly sleeping cats, I think.


Little theological moment. I don’t think that the “king” imagery and language of the Bible is wrong about God but I don’t think that the idea is a) the whole story and b) helpful in all circumstances. In fact, the Bible demonstrates to me that God was pretty against the idea of kings, being very reluctant to let Israel an earthly one at all. And here’s what I think that indicates: yeah, God is king in a kind of literal way, being creator and ruler of the universe; no, God is not a king in a scepter and crown way. So sometimes the fixation on royal imagery in Christianity bugs me because if God is a king the way people are kings, then there’s a problem. If God is king in a totally different way, why not just use a different word.

Since coming out, I have had occasion to move in some very progressive Christian circles and a term I hear relatively often is ‘kin-dom’ to replace kingdom in some contexts. This is well-supported in another image that’s jam-packed into the Bible all over the place: family. An imperfect metaphor (as all metaphors must be) but a good one. This is why I’ve chosen this line to title my Christmas post this year. Because if we’re going to talk about God as king–which isn’t a bad thing–we would do well to make it quite clear what kind of king we’re talking about.

There will be no throne, no crown, no palace, no castle, no trumpets. God sits enthrones within our hearts. And that is what makes Christmas a whole thing worth celebrating. That the Lord of the Universe does not require taxes, does not issue or revoke citizenship, does not demand fealty or service or even law-abiding behavior.

God simply draws near. Comes into this world even as into our hearts. And it is with our hearts–not our actions, our achievements or misdeeds–that we enthrone him.

The Road Before Us

You know I’m always here for singing a chorus or two but today, the road that lies ahead involves something a little different.

I’ve written before about how The Road Not Taken is NOT called The Road Less Traveled. Because they were really worn about the same. But even so, it is about which road you choose to take. Sometimes, however, there are roads that simply aren’t open to you. There is no choice, less traveled or otherwise.

And so all that is left to do is to take the road before you. There is no fork, there is no turn, there is only the road that is already under your feet. Thank God that we have a chorus or two this Christmas season, at least, to help us along the way.


A phrase that I heard this week: “You cannot burn yourself to keep others warm.” I don’t know to what extent that may or may not be currently applicable to me– as either the burner or the recipient of warmth–but it was very arresting when I heard it. Finding that balance between extending yourself toward others and keeping yourself whole.

Interpersonal relations are hard. Also, being a personal is hard.

Even so, I’m glad that I do have people around me. I’m not always cognizant of what a blessing that really is. People who care about me. And cats, of course (pictures forthcoming, sorry).


You may know that I am an avid re-consumer of entertainment media. I do not know why it took me so long to rewatch Wonder Woman, having first seen it in theaters when it came out. And boy am I glad that I rewatched this week. What a excellent film and what a poignant tale in this regard: evil will never be defeated because it lives within each of us but every day and every moment, we have the opportunity to choose good.

And, of course, I truly do believe that only love can save the world.


A disjointed post for a kind of bleh week. Big disappointment followed by a flurry of effort followed by zero effort. On the plus side, considering some of the things I want to bake in the next few weeks so I’m very excited about that. Hopefully, there will be a large number of delicious home-made treats in my life very soon.

In particular, I’m hoping that my cheesecake will turn out better than my last few attempts. They’ve been nice but not quite mixed and a little underbaked.


The British parliamentary election is today and I’m very interested to see the outcome. Probably won’t be anything I love but what can you do. Also, apparently this is the first British election in December since the 1920s (and I’m just realizing that now you have to say 1920s instead of 20s because we’re going to be in the 20s again very soon).

It’s been so interesting and unfortunate to watch this whole Brexit drama unfold the past few years. I’m still kind of hoping against hope that it won’t happen but not hoping too much at this point. I will obviously have to look at real-time results because elections are I guess like sports games for me except with actual stakes that impact people’s lives very directly. Anyway.


As an update on the previous previous, made cranberry orange shortbread yesterday, it was delicious. I also painted my nails, which I haven’t done in ages. Tried to do something festive and it didn’t quite work but at least they’re red and green!

There are worse ways to take a road before you than pretty nails and tasty treats. And as for the chorus or two, I’ve got that in hand as well. Will be going to a choir concert on Saturday for the choir I was in for many years–half my life, in fact, by the time I graduated high school. There will be audience carols and, as an alumnus, I will get to sing a couple songs up front as well. Very much looking forward to it.

Plus, though it’s just been rainy here, there’s been lots of snow in the mountains the past couple days, it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you!

No Such Beauty

Before I get into anything else, a small observation that struck me for a sec this week. I wrote a sentence or two last week about appreciating the later evenings. As a sign of spring. I realized this week: I’m not used to it being dark. And not in the seasonal, latitudinal sense. Like, obviously I’ve been back for a while. And was in New Zealand before that. But Seoul was never dark. Ever. And I missed it. There are lots of advantages to city living and a lot of reasons that I miss that, too. But I think somewhere inside, living in a city kills me a little bit.

Anyway, on to something that brings me life. Cats. And also other things, probably.

Camaro2018-4-18

This past weekend I was tremendously privileged to be able to attend the Chamber Singers reunion at American University, my undergrad alma mater. I was a member of Chamber Singers my whole time at AU, including tours to Russia and the Balkans. I’ve only been absent from DC for three years (almost exactly) but a lot has happened in that time. This reunion was a deeply welcome change of pace and settling of heart.

I was in Choral Society at Trinity, but that was a) not a very in-depth choral experience, as enjoyable as it was and b) finished more that two years ago. And in the intervening time, I have not been a part of a musical group of any description. The only singing I’ve done has been to myself or at church. And that truly was and remains a hard thing for me.

So this past weekend was a bit of a remedy for that, however brief. Friday and Saturday were absolutely gorgeous, a particular blessing in light of the bizarre weather they’ve had this year (and spring weather in general). They were too hot, in my opinion, peaking in the mid-eighties. Sunday and Monday were grey, rainy, and mid-fifties. What can you do. I got to see cherry blossoms galore, daffodils galore (my second favorite flower), and a regional tree climbing competition because apparently that’s a thing.

Also, I visited the Wheaton station on the metro for the express purpose of riding on the longest escalator in the western hemisphere. Apparently I’ve already ridden on the longest in the world, a three way tie between stations on the St Petersburg metro.

There were plenty of alumni events during the weekend. It was quite a crowd, about 55 of us (from a group that’s usually around 30 at any given time) with graduations ranging from 2004 to this past winter. I think I’ve made it clear that I don’t do large social situations well and these were no exception. I’m uncomfortable and that’s that. But it was still a special kind of soothing to be around some old faces, old friends, and other people who I barely met for thirty seconds but who cared enough about singing to come out for it.

After the (smaller) concert on Sunday, I was also able to catch up in person with my best friend whom I hadn’t seen in three years (since graduation, pretty much). And that was really good. I wish that I had stayed longer–I didn’t have anything pressing back here. We’ll see how the job search goes, maybe I’ll be back for another visit sooner rather than later.

Our alumni group was actually integrated into the current Singers’ regular spring concert which had a very laid-back vibe focused on some favorite songs. One in particular, which we sang on tour in Russia after my freshman year, we sang as a joint ensemble some 85 strong. One line, in fact, in the midst of a text that feels definitely applicable to my current aimlessness.

There is no such beauty as where you belong.

I’m not sure where, exactly, in the world I belong. Where in life, where in all kinds of metaphysical senses. And, as I’ve said before, I wasn’t 100% comfortable with all the people I was singing with. But there’s a power in music and I can say with certainty that I belonged on that stage at that moment. I belong in music.

I feel like some people feel that way about sports or whatever else moves people, so I probably don’t really have to explain it any further. One way or another, this weekend was exactly what I needed it to be.

Daring, but Not Hardcore Daring

Author Eudora Welty once said, “A sheltered life can be a daring life as well, for all serious daring starts within.” May we all find the courage and strength to dare within.

Anyway, this week marked the conclusion of intensives. Yesterday, I taught my last one ever! And wow, is it a relief. I, in fact, don’t want to say anything more about them because I’m just glad to have them finished. Suffice to say that they weren’t great and I’ll be moving on with my life now, thank you very much.

This week has also marked the return of the incredibly cold weather, with the low for tonight forecast to be a solid -2 Fahrenheit. So that’s less than ideal, as much as I like cold weather. Gratefully, I don’t have to be out and about much and my walk to work is only like ten minutes. Definitely could be worse, and I suppose it’s at least somewhat justifiable as the Winter Olympics are coming soon and I want there to be plenty of cold and snow then (though please not this cold…).

Fun story of tonight. I got home and there was a bucket catching drips right outside the door to my building. Then the lights in the hallway, which are normally motion triggered, weren’t working. Then on the second floor, people were sweeping up slush because obviously someone’s pipe burst. And then I got home, my lights were working and my water’s fine (I left it dripping) but my internet is down. So I had a little panic for a while, thinking it may somehow be related to that burst pipe, or perhaps one I couldn’t find in my apartment. But after several resets of the router, here we are. Thank goodness, I 10/10 could not handle a pipe explosion right now. Or ever.

On a much better note, we also finished Return of the King and, as I could probably write ten thousand inane blog posts gushing about it, I’ll refrain here and spare you. But that film. So much.

There’s really not much more to say this week. It’s honestly been fairly quiet and I’m grateful for it. The end of my time here is creeping up quickly and I’m partially panicking and partially doing a happy dance every waking moment. And there are certainly some things (read: people, mostly) that I’ll miss. It’s a strange feeling. Someone important once said something along the lines of being lucky to have places that are hard to leave. Not quite there on Korea but you get the gist.

I don’t want to do a whole year in review post yet, it’s definitely still premature, but I encountered the opening quote this week and couldn’t help myself from sharing it before I get to that point. But a sneak preview of some of the things I’m likely to say: this has been a year of daring within. Or, at least, trying to. Take from that what you will.

To conclude our month’s choral selections, I have put together a list of lullabies and other songs that put me in mind of evening. I hope you can give one or two a listen and find a bit of rest.

Sleepytime

  1. Seal Lullaby – Eric Whitacre
  2. Good Night, Dear Heart – Dan Forrest
  3. Lullaby – Daniel Elder
  4. Only in Sleep – Ēriks Ešenvalds
  5. My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land – Edward Elgar
  6. Sing Me to Heaven – Daniel Gawthrop
  7. i carry your heart – Connor Koppin
  8. Sleep – Eric Whitacre
  9. Grace Before Sleep – Susan LaBarr
  10. The Road Home – Stephen Paulus

Food of Love

Yesterday was my first nine hour teaching day of 2018. So I made it two days. We may or may not be given some half days here and there this month, but otherwise I’m slated for nine more such fun-filled days. It actually wasn’t bad, my intensive class is actually pretty decent and I packed plenty of food for our fifteen minute break. But it is still less than ideal. I’ll live, or at least I assume I will, just like I did last time.

In other news, it’s 2018 which means less than two months until I’m finished. I’m really looking forward to that time. I’m definitely ready to leave Korea. It’s been a good experience but it’s just not my place, you know? Not in the way that Exeter, for example, felt like my place. Obviously, I’m looking forward to my vacation plans as well, come the end of February.

Camaro2018-1-4

Me, after one day of intensives

I’ve been thinking recently, though, that it’s important how things end. As much as I want to just let everything go and cruise to the finish, I don’t think that’s what I should do. It would be easy to let things slide and give as little effort as possible, especially in the midst of intensives. But that is not how I want to finish my time here, as little as I honestly care about these next few weeks. It’s easy to work hard when you care, it’s more challenging–and perhaps more important–to work hard when you don’t.

On a different note, it’s been a while since I’ve given you music to listen to (or ignore, as you wish), so I thought I’d do choral edition for songs I listen to. Obviously, I’m really into choral music and I’ve put a great deal of thought and time into making these lists. The songs are from a variety of times, styles, and genres. Most, but not all, are a capella. My original purpose in posting songs was to prove that I don’t only listen to ‘opera’ [sic] but I want to expand your repertoire and challenge you to give some choral music a try.

I’ve broken it into different categories because who doesn’t like themes? Many, many wonderful works have been left out, I’ve just chosen a few songs that I enjoyed and fit (I tried and failed not to have too many repeat composers). I’ve also deliberately left out large scale choral-orchestral works. Some of these I have sung and some I have only listened to.

Just a note: as much as I enjoy sharing the gift of song, I make these lists mostly for myself to look back on in the future to say, “Oh yeah, that song! I should listen to that again, it’s great.” I encourage you to give these a go but the lists really are for me. Maybe choose one with an interesting title and give it a try, you can find a decent recording of most of these on the You Tubes.

The categories are, loosely, 1) poetry and prose 2) celestial songs 3) Latin sacred texts and 4) sleepytime. Hope you will enjoy this as much as I.

Poetry and Prose  (and that one song with random words)

  1. Brothers, Sing On! – after Edvard Grieg
  2. Willow-wood – Daniel Elder
  3. I Love My Love – Gustav Holst
  4. Jing-ga-lye-ya – Bruce Sled
  5. Let My Love Be Heard – Jake Runestad
  6. Anthem (The Dove Descending Breaks the Air) – Igor Stravinsky
  7. Too Much I Once Lamented – Thomas Tomkins
  8. I Am Not Yours – Z. Randall Stroope
  9. Even When He Is Silent – Kim André Arnesen
  10. Valiant-for-truth – Ralph Vaughan Williams

 

Strike the Harp

First, a little look at the cats because it’s always a good time to look at cat pictures.

Very cozy, I’m sure.

Second, on Wiktionary (the Wikipedia dictionary, extraordinarily useful and interesting for a person like me) there are three English etymologies for ‘troll’ and the third lists one meaning to indicate “to sing loudly, freely or in a carefree way.”

On Friday, I had a number of extended video chats with family members and it was lovely. I just like my family, they’re pretty neat. It’s always a bit dizzying to be passed around a room on a little screen but it’s worth it. I continue to be surprised by and grateful for the wonders of technology that allow such communication and contact. I’m also very excited to meet my new little niece when I get back to the US.

ALSO, I can’t believe I forgot, it snowed on Friday morning and it actually stuck for a few hours so that was absolutely lovely.

This week has been rather on the hectic side but I’m still alive and that’s really what matters. I guess.

The first week of my last term so let me give you a little rundown on what’s going on for me. My first class is the lowest level I’ve taught (aside from that bonus extra fun-time lovely joyous class from the summer term) and that’s less than ideal. My other class is a pretty high level and this is the third time I’ve taught it, second time this level and this course. So that one should be okay, even though most of my favorites leveled up.

I have surprised myself by doing mostly alright, I think, with the very small people. I have one class of that low level with fifth and sixth graders but the other class is a couple years younger. That bonus extra class from the summer had some younger ones but that was one hour twice a week and three hours on Wednesday, this class is three hours twice a week which is a lot. But like I said, we’re all still alive. All in all, I’ve actually had some really nice classes with my students already and I think it bodes well for a mostly positive final term.

There have been a number of things recently that have been really less than ideal at work, though, and they’ve really soured things (more so than in the past). Some of them have been mis non-communications and general huge problems from corporate. They have made teaching pretty unpleasant even though my students have all been mostly good. Other things have been specific to our boss who just keeps making unpleasant choices. Which. Whatever. I think that’s about all I can say about it without exploding.

On a much better note, we got a new teacher. He’s from Australia, hired to replace our Welsh teacher who left which keeps our non-American population the same. He’s a nice guy, should fit in just fine 🙂

It’s also after Thanksgiving now so people can’t stop me from being super Christmasy. I mean, they couldn’t stop me before, but now they can’t even try.

I know Christmas time isn’t a happy time for everybody and that makes me sad. There are totally valid reasons for it, of course, but I wish everyone could feel like I do around Christmas because it’s honestly the best. Of course, as Muppet Christmas Carol instructs, I try to make the feeling last all year. But it’s so much easier during Christmas. Sometimes I feel like I’m just going to burst it makes me so happy. Which is cliché, but clichés are cliché because they’re true.

Even in my sad times when I remember that I’m not going to Christmas very much this year, it still such a cozy, warm, happy sadness. Christmas, obviously, is important for many other, much more important reasons but the one that I’m grateful for today, in this moment, is the simple, commercial–even secular–Christmas spirit.

I just want to strike the harp! My coworkers can attest: I often troll yuletide carols. And you should too.

Join the chorus. Fa la la la la la la la la.