The projected discussion concerning feelings, emotions and cognitive decision-making got bumped by serendipity. Yes, I know, May 30, 2021 was my original serendipity blog in case you missed it.
Serendipity, a relatively popular word twenty or so years ago is defined: an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident, a seeming gift for finding something good accidentally, luck, or good fortune, or my simple definition: in the process of following a plan a more exciting one develops. Upon reflection, as this blog illustrates, serendipity happenings which are common to everyone to some degree, offer fun memories to share. To help prod your past, recall the job you dreamed about or the promotion reluctantly accepted to another state, or how changing a college major opened your eyes to an entirely different possibility than you had imagined. Maybe a trip reluctantly taken is how you met your one and only. Just dream backwards uprooting dormant serendipity-treasures full of laughs and relief.
Over the holidays my son Roger asked if I was watching Ohio State playing at the Rosebowl. “No, but I definitely want to watch it. I’ve been there, you know.” “I didn’t know that. When were you there?” ”In 1954, but not for football. Moody Chorale traveled to California and gave a concert on Easter morning. The stadium was pretty full.” “I didn’t know you traveled with a choir. “We traveled every school holiday and once even to Texas. I never dreamed about being in a choir let alone traveling. I had never heard of the a cappella Moody Chorale. The opportunity just emerged. It was an unusual and fun experience--something you would have enjoyed, Roger.”
The next day when brother John called, we also discussed Ohio State’s Rosebowl game. “I was there once,” I volunteered, again. “For a game?” “No, when I was in the Moody Chorale, we traveled there one spring break.” He, too, was astonished that the choir I was in traveled from Chicago to California. “Where was I that I knew so little about my younger sister?” “You were probably married in seminary and busy.” So, we can ‘credit’ or ‘blame’ Roger and/or John—your choice—for inspiring a second serendipity subject. The situations that seeded the serendipity began when I was a Junior in high school.
“I just want to help people”, I told the interviewer at our High School Career Day when college representatives were informing and encouraging preparations for college or trade schools. I remember how reluctant I was to consider college although I was a good student. But when my brother-in-law, who was visiting us, asked what I planned to do with my life, I said I would like to help people spiritually and felt a strong call by the Lord to be a pastor’s wife”. He smiled and said “I know just the place for you to go—Moody Bible Institute.” I had never heard of it. “My parents attended Moody,” he said “And after I finished college, I took some classes, too.” “I am reluctant to leave Mom and neither of us has any extra money.” “Moody is tuition free”, Dick said. “The school is financed by donors who want to help young people prepare for ministries. You’d only be responsible for room and board”.
The admission form required that I choose a course of study—Christian Education, General Bible, Missions, Music or Pastor. The only one that appealed to me was music as I was taking piano lessons. The piano major prerequisites were playing all the scales from memory, and pieces by Chopin, Bach and Beethoven, etc. I had one year to get ready. My piano teacher was excited and worked hard preparing me for the requirements. I practiced faithfully 2 hours a day, but performed only for my teacher.
My first day at Moody, I introduced myself to Dr. Don Hustad, Moody’s music director and handed him a letter of commendation that my piano teacher had written. He read her letter and smiled. I felt very comfortable with him. I can still envision myself at the grand piano with Mr. Hustad on my right. After I finished playing everything I had prepared, Mr. Hustad said kindly, “Ruth, you have met all of the requirements for entering the piano program but you lack performing experience. The competition and weekly performances would be too much for you because the other students have been studying and performing for 12-15 years.” “What should I do?” I asked, holding back hot tears. “Your teacher’s letter indicates that you have also had some vocal lessons, so you could switch your major to voice.” I took his advice. I was surprised and delighted to learn that music students were automatically enrolled in the Moody Chorale so I began attending practices. I had sung in our church choir but an a cappella choir (without instruments) was invigorating and exciting. Unfortunately, I was dissatisfied with the vocal course and took another leap transferring to the General Bible course. Here’s where the serendipity enters: For some reason, Don Hustad allowed me to remain in the Moody Chorale even though I was no longer a music major. Students from non-music courses who wanted to be in the Chorale had to submit to stiff audition but I wasn’t asked to audition, and probably wouldn’t have made it. Concerts were held in local churches, at chapel and special meetings. Chorale members became close friends because of the long practices and shared trips. Don Hustad was a perfectionist, barely moving his hands to direct. Our eyes were to be on him constantly and he could tell if we embodied the lyrics. Being a member of the Moody a Capella Chorale turned out to be a momentous spiritual and meaningful undertaking.
Another serendipitous surprise involved my being randomly assigned to the same dinner table as Jim. I liked his friendliness, genuine smile and his Texas accent. He also very polite. I knew he liked me when he saved me a place when our table was covered. Every student was also assigned two special ministries each week and what do you know? Jim and I were assigned to Japanese visitation on Monday nights where we ministered together during our first year. The most valuable Moody serendipity—way above the Chorale--was meeting Jim and leading to future marriage, four children and 65 years of shared ministry.
Travelling by train and buses to California, the Chorale had a ball. We anticipated being in exotic homes, hopefully meeting celebrities and having an exciting story to share the next morning. My roommate and I received the booby-prizes in that category. Our first hostess scared us by driving the wrong way on a one-way street, and her house was full of bird cages, dogs, cats and a monkey. Pretty smelly. But our hopes for a hot breakfast were dashed by being served lemon juice and toast. I’ve never repeated that menu again. When we learned that our host and hostess at the next home were both physicians, our expectations soared, confident that we were in for an unforgettable experience, but after being shown our room, that was the last we saw of the doctors. Our breakfast, served by a maid was a dish of sliced strawberries and a glass of milk. My brother John, broke in “Ruthie, I’ve never heard any of that.” “It gets better, John”.
In the fall when the Chorale traveled to Texas, since Jim and I were definitely an item, he informed his family the date that the Moody Chorale would perform in Big Spring. Today, I spoke with Don, Jim’s adopted cousin/brother who said he remembers that evening very well. “We were all trying to pick out which girl you were.” Mr. Hustad called on me to give my personal testimony about when I met Christ and what I planned to do with my life. Somehow, he got wind that I had family in the audience. I was very nervous. After our concert I met seven members of Jim’s family who drove 62 miles to get a look at ‘Jim’s Yankee girlfriend’.
“Ruthie,” John said “you just have to write a blog about all of that”. “What would my subject be, John?” “I don’t know, but you’ll think of something.” That night as I was on the brink of sleep, the word serendipity ran through my mind once again. Remaining open minded and being flexible when things don’t work out as planned, is often just the way God nurtures his children toward finding a satisfying career, ministry and lifestyle. He doesn’t stop when we get into our 80’s, either.
Jesus said: “I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly”. John 10:10 He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ. Phil. 1:6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will direct your path. Prov. 3:5-6