Everyone knows we LaJoy's are...well...a little different. That is putting it mildly. After the rocky couple of months we have had, and the particularly stressful last couple of weeks, one might think that our idea of a relaxing weekend would be something like sitting around a pool with a drink that has a tiny umbrella sticking out of it. Or maybe a "Spa Day" with a mani-pedi and a massage.
When you don't drink, that makes the little umbrellas sticking out of your Diet Cokes look a little silly. And when you bite your fingernails (Confession Time), a manicure seems a little pointless.
So, instead, we had the incredible blessing of an old friend offer us a Sanctuary of sorts, and we took her up on the offer. Now, many of you might not consider this a restful opportunity, nor even a desirable one. But remember, we are Team LaJoy - Freaks Extraodinaire. So, after weeks of this:
We decided that the most perfect get-away would be to our lovely nearby mountain town of Silverton, Colorado home of First Congregational Church where we have visited and I have preached. And there we attended this:
After being generously offered the use of the Parsonage as our personal Bed and Breakfast, we decided it would be the perfect way to unwind and just be together as a family to attend the one and only 32nd Annual Great Western Rocky Mountain Brass Band Festival.
Ahhhh...I can hear your laughter now, and don't think I don't see those upraised eyebrows and eye rolling. You have absolutely no idea what this actually is.
Coming from far and wide for years and years, the top brass instrument musicians in the United States arrive to do what they do best, play. We are not talking Joe Blow who happens to play his horn once or twice a year, we are talking about the premier brass musicians, many of whom are professors of music, or former military band members. Their conductor since the 1980's, Mr. Paul Maybery, has a list of credentials a mile long, including arranging and orchestrating for several PBS specials, including several Ken Burns documentaries.
Not knowing what to expect, we traveled up the mountains to where Silverton sits at 9500 ft in altitude, and quickly saw that the town's usual population of 450 or so year round had swelled to at least quadruple that amount for the big event. That was the first sign that this was no ordinary concert. We dropped our bags, made a quick dinner of sandwiches, and walked the block and a half to the high school gym (where this K12 school has an enrollment of about 63 students total). Folding chairs were set up for the free concert, once of 4 they have throughout the weekend. So here we are in the epitome of "Small Town America", a little table set up in back where the silver haired beauties are offering their wares of TShirts and bags, and we are settling in for the hour wait before the concert begins.
Here were a few of the sights, as the musicians wandered around warming up in authentic period costumes:
Now, I know what you are thinking. "How quaint."or perhaps "Wow, that is totally hokey!"
We would be the ones having the last laugh, if that is the case.
After visiting with a few old friends who had traveled up to attend as well, the concert finally began. They played the first few measures, and my jaw dropped to the ground. I have never, ever in my life heard such musical excellence. All you heard were rich, clear tones as each section was so perfectly in tune they sounded as if they were one instrument. As a former marching band member myself of a pretty highly rated middle school and high school band in Southern California, I have listened to my share of some solid brass bands and music. Nothing I have heard in all my years compared to the sound of this 40ish member band performing in a tiny high school gym. This was phenomenal, and reading the newspaper article where bios of the musicians were listed explained it all.
The kids were stunned, and Angela in particular fell head over heels in love with the music. She looked over at me 4 or 5 times throughout the concert saying, "This is the best ever, Mom...they are SO GOOD!". She recognized a couple of the tunes, and one Russian arrangement she leaned over to say, "That sounds very, very Russian." She saw the name Tchaikovsky mentioned as one of the composers and commented beforehand that she knew that would be a good musical piece, so a little of our effort to expose to a wide variety of music is sticking a little. Everyone had a fantastic time, especially at the end when the traditional patriotic songs were played. The girls and Matthew all wanted TShirts, so they bought one and then during a brief break there was an audience participation moment and Joshie lucked out and won a Tshirt for being one of the 3 youngest in the audience. Actually, there were very few people under 50 in attendance, and maybe 6 or so other kids in addition to ours.
We had a really funny moment after the concert was over and an older gentleman tapped me on the shoulder. He said in all seriousness, "I am sorry, but I just have to ask. We've watched you all evening and been trying to figure it out. Are you the mom to all these kids, or their music teacher?" I laughed and said, "Actually...I'm both!" and then went on to explain. He said, "I am so glad I asked, it would have had me wondering the rest of the weekend!".
We learned so much as the Conductor took time to explain a little of the history before each piece was played. We all left walking in the street in the dark, giggling and laughing as we talked about what a huge surprise that had been for all of us, and every single one of us said we wanted to return next year. Angela had been missing our church's Jazz Sunday, which due to the retirement of our choir director we would no longer be having, and she suggested that we make this be a new tradition to take its place.
All we were exhausted after the long drive and the extra long musical evening, but there was still a lot of soft conversation as we got tucked in for the night in the old 1800's parsonage. Crooked walls, crooked floors all matched the crooked family sleeping there that night :-)
We awoke early to get ready for the church service held right next door, and to get the place spic and span before the Coffee Hour was held there after church. We loaded the van and went for a walk downtown in the early morning sunlight as we waited for worship time. We talked about what it would be like to live in a place like this year round, about how hard your life would be but how very interesting and different it would be from most Americans, and we speculated about what the townspeople did during their very long and super cold winters.
The church service was a special treat as there were several musicians from the concert who came to perform for the worship hour, and we heard old time hymns played on a spectacular harp, and the other instruments breathed new life into old standards we all know and love. Sitting there in that old, old church, everything felt just right. Joshie had the perfect seat with the best light for photos, so I caught a couple of him and of Kenny drawing in his newly decorated note pad while they waited for the church service to begin. I was bummed to discover that several great photos I had of the girls were ruined as one of the kids had the camera for a while and messed with the settings, and that block of photos had the ones with the girls!
As we drove home and I sat with eyes closed in the passenger seat, I was thinking to myself that everything is going to be OK. It's never going to be perfect, but perfect is over-rated. We're no different than anyone else, just trying to get by and do the best we can. Sometimes we'll fail, other times we won't, but we will have tried with all our might.
We are blessed, ten times over. Sometimes it does feel like it is all just getting harder...harder to make ends meet, harder to know what is best, harder to get everything done that needs to get done. We plod through each day, finding little moments that we tuck away to pull out on the rougher ones. We play, sing, laugh, and work together. "Together" is the key word, we are together, we are whole, we are dreaming and doing. It may not be the kinds of things others dream about, but it works for us. We are continually on the trail to remind ourselves that what we have been blessed with is indeed "enough".
I notified the school via email of our plans to withdraw and asked when we could schedule a face to face meeting to wrap things up. The two staff members who work with us were such an encouragement as I was told by one that were the best family they have worked with in 13 years, and we ought to leave with great confidence that we can truly succeed. The other said she completely respected our wishes, but hated to type the words "exit" in regard to "this fantastic family". As much as I had been dreading sending that email and the responses we might receive, I felt so uplifted by the warmth that radiated through their responses. They are both such strong advocates for "their" kids and they have done a lot for us as we faced uphill battles higher up the "food chain". Just as when we left the brick and mortar school four years ago, it is with mixed emotions because we have encountered some people who care deeply about what they do. Our family has had an unusually high number of folks we have interacted with through the years who care about us and who have gone out of their way to help. I have no idea why, but the emails reminded me once again that God is woven throughout all we do and every encounter we have. We have a lot of "paying it forward" to be aware of, that's for sure.
After our Sanctuary Weekend, we started back at school today with a renewed optimism. We will still have glitches, but I think we have repaired the biggest glitch of all, for which I take full responsibility. We forgot for a brief time that God is in control, and we are always more on course when we keep listening and discerning. Recognizing that circumstances change, plans change, and goals change is important, but even more important is the courage to act on what God is helping you to see, and not to allow yourself to feel "stuck". Today was SO much better, we were all feeling we had turned the corner and were safely back "in the zone" for learning in the ways that best suit us. It was as if a dark cloud had lifted from over our kitchen table, and the lively conversation we had this morning during current events was a joy. We discussed what were the most concerning weapons of war right now, and contrasted it with trench warfare and other forms of fighting from the past. The de-humanization of the enemy as long range missiles, drones, nuclear weapons and cyber attacks were/are developed was a stark contrast to the dreaded worksheets with multiple choice answers to be filled out alone while off in a corner. Life has returned to our learning, and we need that more than anything as we struggle day to day with all the challenges we have on our plate. I felt a wave of relief this morning, and I am 100% certain we made the right choice, regardless of what we are giving up or how much harder that will make other parts of our lives. That certainty had been gradually slipping away, eroded by what I knew was just not working but wouldn't allow myself to see our way out of it. I am forever indebted to Dominick...the one whose courage was really tested as he immediately figured out what we needed to do despite my financial worries over it.
Maybe I just need a big ol' Brass Band to come knocking at my door to get me to see things clearly! And as I look at the beautiful light filled photo Josh took with my camera this morning, I feel more at peace than I have in a very long time. Somehow, we'll make it, day by day.
Light and Love, that's what is's all about.