Merry Christmas 2016!

To all who visit my website and blog:  Merry Christmas!

Putting on the 5th Voice Lifted at Christmas concert two weeks ago was a highlight of my Christmas season.  As always, it was a delightful experience for me to be with so many family members, relatives, friends, community members, visitors, returning audience members, and those coming to one of my concerts for the first time.  I am uplifted by being together with you all and having the opportunity to share my music with you.

I came to this year’s concert in a more peace-filled and joyful place, and I’m hearing that this came across in the show.  In addition to my red dress and red music stand, I chose to sing some more familiar carols and joyful, upbeat pieces.  It felt good.  I felt the best after this year’s concert than any of them so far.  I had fun on stage: performing my solo pieces and collaborating musically with Tom Flamini, Emily Barrett, and Mark Denchy.

A great article was published in the Pottsville Republican on the day after my concert.  I am grateful for that coverage, and I’m happy that the news article will spread the word to others who may be interested in attending a future Voice Lifted at Christmas concert.  Next year’s event will be on Sunday, December 10, 2017.

I’ve been more quiet this year on my blog, not having written and posted as often as in previous years, but I plan to do more of that in 2017.  I enjoy this connection to all of you.  Please feel free to leave comments on my posts – that will encourage me to show up more and share more.

In offering to everyone a Christmas message this year, I invite you to connect with your inner child and to allow yourself to be present in the celebrations in which you take part and in the difficult moments, too.  The holiday season is really, for most of us, NOT picture-perfect…but there is amidst all of that, so much to really celebrate and to be joyful about.  Jesus and Mary clearly struggled at many points throughout their lives, and they did not hide it or put on a face that masked their pain…but what they did was know that the holy God within was far greater than the human challenges they faced.  God is not external and distant.  We can allow ourselves to touch and hold God and to be touched and held…by simply going within and breathing in the love that is both the holy infant and the divine power inside.  May we allow Christ to be born within us today, and may we experience joy in that birth.

All photos by Andy Leibenguth – www.tamaquaarea.com

Thank you, Andy!!

 

Voice Lifted at Christmas – Fifth Annual Benefit Concert

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It is hard to believe that this will be the fifth consecutive year for the Voice Lifted Christmas Benefit Concert,  This year’s event will be on Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 2:30 pm.  This event will, as in the past years, benefit the Tamaqua Blue Raider Foundation and the Tamaqua Community Arts Center.  100% of the ticket money will go to these two organizations, with each receiving 50%.  Tickets will be $8 in advance and $10 at the door.  You may call 570-818-4135 for advance tickets.  Returning to the stage as guest performers this year will be Emily Barrett and Tom Flamini.

If you have not attended a Voice Lifted Christmas Benefit Concert in the past, I invite you to experience this event as a way to lift your spirit and to do something for yourself this holiday season that will help you to connect with the deeper meaning of Christmas.  My intention each year is to make this concert a retreat from the busyness of the season, a time to breathe & go within, and a time to reflect on who we are and how God is present in each of us and in our world.  The concert will include familiar Christmas songs as well as many unfamiliar pieces that explore our relationship with the Divine, our human experiences and emotions, and our connection to the past and to the future.  A favorite part of the concert in past years in addition to the music was the improvised sharing of personal stories and messages.  I look forward to opening my heart to the inspiration of the Spirit and seeing how God speaks through me in this annual event.

Please contact me with any questions about the concert or if you would like to purchase tickets in advance.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy took us for a wild ride last week.  Living in east-central Pennsylvania, I would not have expected to ever experience the wrath of such a hurricane.  There are still people within an hour of me waiting for their electricity to be restored…6 days later.  The amount of devastation in New York and New Jersey is unbelievable.

 

I have found myself unsettled since Sandy blew through.  Even though my power was restored in 24 hours and damage to my home and my parents’ property was minimal, I’ve just been shaken by it all and almost can’t bear to see the videoclips and photos and to hear the stories that are being shared on the tv news and on the internet.

 

Yesterday, I found out about a former student of mine who is organizing a project to help those in Rockaway, NY who have lost everything in this storm.  This student, now in high school, was an active member of the Pleasant Valley Intermediate School Student Council when I advised and led this group in my tenure as a teacher in Pleasant Valley.  Nina is collecting canned goods, clothing, blankets, batteries, coats, toys, and more — to help those who need help the most.  I spent time last night getting things together to donate.  As my parents have recently moved to a new house, we’ve been doing a lot of cleaning around here over the past several months, and this is a great opportunity for us to let go of things we no longer need and to pass them on to people who could really benefit from them.  I am inspired by Nina’s continued commitment to leadership and helping the community, and I am so happy to see her initiating this project.  She is a high school student who excels academically, a friendly and warm young woman who brings joy to many, and a person who gives back and helps her school and community.  She had all of these qualities as a seventh grader in my Student Council, and she is becoming more involved and helping more and more people as she grows and works hard at all that she does.  I am so proud of Nina, and I feel better that I am helping in a small way to alleviate some of the suffering of these people afflicted by Hurricane Sandy. If anyone would also like to contribute to Nina’s project, please get in touch with me, and I will pass on Nina’s contact information to you.  She is welcoming additional donations, and I support her project and want it to be a great success.

 

There are many other ways to help.  My friend Stan suggested on his most recent blog post donating through Music for Relief.  The Tamaqua Salvation Army did a fantastic job of helping people in Schuylkill and Carbon County in so many ways over the past week.  Andy Leibenguth and others delivered hot meals to residents without power.  WNEP News did a feature on their great service.

 

While this storm has shaken so many of us, it has also brought people together.  I am moved by the acts of kindness and compassion that continue to make life better and restore hope for those who were affected by this storm.