Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Nutcracker & a Christmas Miracle!

I went all out. This was the big production: Second grade, after weeks of learning about Tchaikovsky and audience etiquette and ballet, was going to see the Nutcracker at the Kauffman Center. And, being Room Parent for the year, I had the special privilege of being chaperone!
 To make the event especially memorable for Lorelei, I surprised her with a special Christmas dress and ruby slippers and bought her her very own Nutcracker.
The girl loved it all!
 (He really is the most spectacular Nutcracker, isn't he? I adore the toad on his head!)
But the morning of the big field trip, the weather turned foul.
Ice everywhere.
School buses were doing donuts.
The only pretty thing about the morning was this little darling in her new dress:
 In hopes that they wouldn't call it off, I went to the school office and waited on tenterhooks with the Room Parents from the other classes. And despite all the finagling our stellar principal was trying to do to make this field trip happen (and let me tell you, she sure tried!), District wasn't having it. Their final verdict: it was a No-Go.
It was so very sad for those poor second graders and their teachers. There were tears.
But we three Room Parents, being all dressed up and having four-wheel drive at our disposal, decided to call our kids down to the office. 
We were playing hooky.

 We piled into one van.
On the way, I gave Lorelei the gift I'd been saving: a charm necklace with a Sugarplum Fairy.
She was so tickled.

 It was a wild ride (but the roads were fine).
 We finally arrived at the gorgeous Kauffman Center!
There were so many empty seats that day. We just walked right in; didn't even need tickets.
 As an extra special treat, we took the kids to Lorelei's restaurant preferee: Chez Elle!
Best crepes in town.
 The kids played card games.
 What a very special day with Lorelei; one I'll never forget.
And it wasn't just magic swirling in the air.
There was also a miracle.

During intermission at the Kauffman Center, I asked one of the attendants to take a photograph of Lorelei and me. That's when a stranger came up and asked if he could snap a photo of us too. Why not? I noticed the man had a British accent, and asked where he was from.
"London," said he. 
"What are you doing here, in Kansas City?" I wondered.
"I'm actually in a concert tonight."
"What kind of music?" I asked.
"I'm one of the Tallis Scholars," he said.
I about jumped out of my skin.
You see, this has enormous significance for me. I listen to the Tallis Scholars and music by Thomas Tallis (medieval composer in King Henry VIII's court) when I wake up, and when I fall asleep. This is the music I pray to and that I play everyday when I'm contemplating God's extravagant love for me and for all mankind, and my love for God. It is holy.
I even had a CD of Thomas Tallis compositions on hold at the library that very day. Not joking.
Intermission was nearly over, so I asked the stranger where his concert was, and how I could pick up tickets.
"The church with the gold dome on it," he said. "If you want, I'll get you tickets."
I gave him my phone number before he rushed off, and as soon as I got home, there was a phone message from my stranger, Patrick Craig, telling me he had two tickets in his name at Immaculate Conception for 8pm that night.
The concert was heavenly. Angelic. Perfection.
And Mr. Craig, the countertenor, kept smiling at Mark and me in the audience, as if the whole concert was for us. He had the most pure and resonant voice as he gave the first pitch to every song. It's no wonder he sings all over the world, and at St. Paul's Cathedral, London, in his time off.
Which has more significance... that very week, I'd received my acceptance letter to St. Paul (School of Theology) to begin a Master's degree in Christian Ministry. In contemplating whether to pursue this, I would pray to the music of Thomas Tallis in the background, asking God for a sure sign that this was His will. I kept feeling like God was calling me to do this, to trust Him, and yet it made no sense to me. My faith isn't very cookie-cutter, to begin with (oh, how I struggle with dogma!). And a Master of Arts in Ministry isn't even necessary in our faith tradition to practice ministry (I'm not planning on pastoring a church; just sharing God's love in a part-time ministry role). In a word, the whole idea of school is "impractical."
But God was faithful in this miraculous synchronicity.
We ran into our friend, Ryan Heckman, at the concert that night, and got to visit with Patrick Craig afterward (below). He gave me a huge hug and a signed book about the Tallis Scholars. I gave him a bag of goodies from Kansas City.
I still get goosebumps thinking how very impossible it all was, this stranger coming all the way from London to bless me with this unusual music I so deeply love. Thank you with all my heart, Mr. Craig! You were my angel on Santa Lucia Day!

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