I often joke at the coffee commercial “celebrate the moments of your life” and it has become an even more poignant statement since purchasing my first coffee maker this week. Well, this turned out to be one of those days of celebration, as it was a wonderful day through and through.

En route to church I chatted with Mother, a Sunday morning ritual, either on a long Flyer walk or driving to church. We turned on to Kurtz and the cars were lined up for the church’s cantata! Thus began our day…

Cantata
The church had the most wonderful cantata this morning. The 10 piece orchestra was comprised of some of the Miami Valley’s most talented, and they certainly did a phenomenal job. The choir, a little larger than Sunday mornings, filled the front of the church and right up the altar steps. They did such a great job. The cantata, Journey of Hope, was written by two of my favorite contemporary composers, Camp Kirkland & Tom Fettke – and they did not let me down with this particular setting. The entire service was just exceptionally great. Since he was playing “second fiddle” this morning to the performers, Pastor Monte sat with us in the front row (I felt like my grandfather sitting right up front! How Methodist of me!). Towards the end of the cantata I saw a blue church bulletin being shuffled back and forth. Since we were face to face with the performers, I was especially concerned with any distractions. As I turned to retrieve the bulletin from my two sons, I discovered it was heading back to Pastor Monte who began the bulletin-mail. How reminiscent of Grandma Donna and me (as a teenager) at our home Methodist church…

After the cantata, I got to meet Chris Stevens’ parents, Margaret & Cash, from Columbus, as well as her younger sister, Barbara. Chris suggested a family portrait since Adam was wearing a tie, so I set up a bench in front of the tree and a stained glass window, and posed Chris, Monte, Nathaniel and Adam while a parishioner with a camera took the photographs.

Afterwards, the Stevens family, Chris’ parents, my sons and nephew, Andrew, who is staying with us for the week, took off for Anticoli’s for lunch.

Concert
After lunch, we hurried to Vandalia-Butler High School for the choral department’s holiday concert. Kevin Wilson, one of the area’s stronger choral directors, put on a good concert with a hundred plus voices. His repertoire was very well selected, and proved to be a great afternoon of choral singing.

I love the story behind Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from The Messiah. Apparently, during the second performance in London, King George II, tired and stiff from sitting so long, stood just as this particular chorus began – well, when the monarch stands, the subjects stand. At the next performance, those who had been present at the with the king must have thought it was a royal decree to stand nearly 250 years. Since we are no longer a “Merry Christmas” society, I am sure the Christian faith is blamed for this tradition… blame it on Georgy!

Coffee
After the concert, Chris & Monte invited us back to their home for coffee. 13yo Adam rode with us, and of course, he and Jose are a pair! As we drove down their street Adam shouted, “There’s our house!” We all laughed as we were surrounded by houses.
Monte & Chris’ new home is so much what I would like for a brand new home of my own. It is a two-story Springbrook design, and the layout is absolutely perfect. Chris is an amazing decorator, and even more so with a glue gun and her own creations. With some encouragement, I believe I could become as creative in the home decor department. Oui! “Creations by Jolliffe-Haas” could be my next venture.

And then there was coffee… since I am now an official coffee maker owner, I am keen on learning more. Chris’ coffee had such a wonderful flavor – and I learned a great secret – a dash of cinnamon with the coffee grounds. As I write this, I am on my second cup, with two more to come!

The best part was the laughter and conversation. I do feel my life has been enriched by meeting the Stevens family, and I know my sons feel the same. On the drive home – a beautiful snow filled sky straight out of a Currier & Ives print, “Silver Lumina on I-75” – Matt said, “Dad, I didn’t know ministers could be such fun people. I thought they would always be dull and quiet and have homes that were like most churches – but they’re not like that at all.” I had to laugh, as I had grown up with ministers, teachers and police officers all my life!

How this moment began…
This “moment of my life” actually began in 1991. I moved to Dayton in 1990, and in February 1991 I began my tenure as director of worship & music at Faith In Christ Lutheran Church in Springfield, Ohio. There I met this wonderful family, the Posts. Bill & Cindy’s children were all very young, Simon, their youngest was only five. Now, Stacey is a mother of two, Elaine is in her third year of college, and Simon is a freshman in college. One summer, Cindy’s sister, Valerie Lockhart, drove over from Indiana with her new born, red-headed son, Jackson. After leaving Faith In Christ Lutheran Church in 1993, I remained in touch with the Post family.

In January of 2002, I received a telephone call from Valerie – Jackson was in the fifth grade and was wanting to take piano lessons. They showed up for their first lesson and I got to meet Jackson’s younger sister, Sophie, who eventually became a piano student as well.

In 2003, Valerie introduced me to her friends, the Berlons – Amanda, Scott, Zach and Caleb. Zach, a year younger than my son, Matthew, became a piano student. When Jose arrived, he and Caleb were in the same pod/family at Van Buren Middle School. Both Matt and Zach are in concert choir and show choir at Fairmont, and Jose and Caleb are still good friends. Scott and Amanda and I are very similar in parenting styles and values, and our sons are very similar in personalities. This summer I enjoyed several outings with the Berlon & Haas boys, and our families tend to see a good deal of each other.

Last month, Chris Stevens called. “Hello, I am a friend of Valerie Lockhart and she…” Chris and Valerie had grown up together in Columbus and remained in touch all these years. Several times, when we were church shopping, Valerie, knowing I had a deep appreciation for Lutheran liturgy, suggested we visit North Riverdale Lutheran Church. To be honest, I was so spoiled by the sermons, ministry style and friendship of Mike Johnson at Faith In Christ, I was not terribly interested in exploring another Lutheran church – no one could do it as well as Mike. And, I have eaten my thoughts. Once I met Chris and Nathaniel, I was easily lured to Monte’s parish. It was an easy sell – and for those who know DLJH know I am terribly critical in this arena!

Tomorrow afternoon, one of the Havener children will begin piano lessons. The Haveners are also friends of the Lockharts, and have six adopted children!

So today, it seemed as though I was continuing to celebrate a moment in my life that began nearly fifteen years ago with the Post family. With so many new friends this past year, reconnecting with a number of college friends, and the many wonderful friends I dearly love, I feel so blessed this Christmas/holiday season.

And last Wednesday morning, following the Van Buren Middle School music concert, Valerie Lockhart said, “Since I have had success in introducing you to the Berlons, the Stevens, and now the Haveners, there is one more I want you to meet – he’s fresh out of college and is our children’s choir director at church…”

Valerie should build a career with her tremendous skill at matching family friends!

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