Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Joy

"While we try to teach our children all about life, Our children teach us what life is all about."  A.Schwindt 
This is what joy looks like.  I wish you coud hear his laugh!  I don't remember experiencing true joy (other than when I was baptized) until this little boy was born. 

This was A's first documented smile....and of course it was with his Aunt Jessica :)

Three years old and he writes songs and sings them to me.  On Valentine's day (the day this pic was taken) he played my guitar and sang while I did dishes.  Then he said, "I made this song for you.  It's called I love you and I want to go to the store."  Best Valentine's Day present EVER.

My little Razorback fan....of course, he was brainwashed, but he's a fan nonetheless!

Just wanted to share a little joy with my blogger friends! 

Friday, March 26, 2010

"I Am Constant"

January 2004:  By this time I was 19, had been out on my own for two years and was in a serious relationship with a guy who I was ready to introduce my parents to.  I had moved three times in two years, took on a new role where I worked, and was quickly becoming very close to my boyfriend's family.  I was also in the midst of a puzzling health problem, which was nothing new for me, just frustrating.  Things were changing and moving....fast!

I am not opposed to change, in fact I like it.  What I don't like is when there's a hint of chaos.  Underneath all of these happy changes, I felt a little out of control but didn't fully acknowledge it.  I was happy and excited and figuring out who I was.  Before the big trip to introduce *Ike (*definitely not his real name) to my family I had a little heart to heart, with myself.  My plan had been to live in Kansas City for a while and then move to either Fayetteville, AR to attend the University of Arkansas (go Razorbacks!) or join the military as a linguist.  The military didn't pan out due to the puzzling health problem and moving to AR didn't work out because of Ike, and that scared me.  Choose a future with Ike and change my plans?  or keep with my plans and throw away the relationship?  I chose to stay.  It's still a little bit shocking to me looking back on that decision because I was so anti-marriage back then!  But, I loved him and love (combined with being 19) makes you give up on things like....dreams and goals....even when you know better.

I am getting a little off track!

So, back to January 2004.  I received a call from my mom, as Ike and I were getting ready to leave town to visit my parents.  My maternal great grandmother had passed away.  I was very close to her and an amazing sadness came over me immediately.  It was like an emotional "final straw" for me.  Why was EVERYTHING changing?!  She would never meet Ike.  She might have actually have been disappointed that I was choosing him over my goals, but I would never know.  She would never hear me sing again.  She wouldn't know my children.....

Ike was amazing through it all.  After the visit at my parents he drove me straight to St. Joe, MO to attend my great grandma's visitation and funeral.  He listened to me sob on the road trip and comforted me.  He made a great first impression with all of my extended family members.

Weeks later, and here's where the point of the post will become more clear, I was still having a hard time emotionally.  I just felt like nothing was constant.  So, one day on my way home from work, traffic was at a standstill on I-70.  One more thing to bother me...geez!  I was so irritated and finally I said outloud, "You know I still needed her!  Why can't anything just stay...constant!"  My check engine light was on, my cell phone battery was dying, I had $20 until my next paycheck and I had just gotten paid three days before.  All of these things, and more, went racing through my mind. I realized that the actual problem was that I had enormous guilt weighing me down.  My great grandmother was constantly asking me to record myself singing so that she could listen to me while in her nursing home.  I was always too busy or too self conscious so I never did it.  I turned on the car radio to drown out my thoughts and guilt.

Suddenly, I heard an intro to a song that I had never heard before.  It was beautiful, slow, with what sounded like a huge orchestra of stringed instruments.  I didn't catch any of the lyrics until the chorus and all I heard was "I am contant, I am near.  I am peace that shatters all your secret fears...."  An understanding and peace washed over me immediately and I turned the music up.  Wow!  It must be  new song--surely they would play it again soon and I wold be able to catch the artists name.


Three weeks went by and I didn't hear the song again, until one day on my way to church.  I was stopped at an intersection hoping that it would come on again so I could hear the rest of the lyrics....then I heard it!  "Oh gently lay your head upon my chest and I will comfort you, like a mother, while you rest.....The tide can change so fast but I will stay the same through the past, the same in the future the same today.  I am constant, I am near. I am peace that shatters all your secret fears.   I am holy and I am wise.  I'm the only one who knows your hearts desires....."

I was sobbing and driving and knew those words were for me.  I grabbed my phone and called the radio station.  "I heard a song at 10:43 this morning, can you tell me what it was?"  I was placed on hold and then he said, "What was the song called?"  I don't know.  "Who sings it?"  I was hoping you could tell me that.  "What does it sound like?"  I sang the parts I could remember.  "Ma'am, I'll be honest.  I'm new here and all but I know we didn't play that song in the last 30 minutes.  I've never heard it before.  In fact, at 10:43 we didn't even play a song, we were airing the end of a sermon."

I went to music stores,  I googled, I searched for months to find this song until I finally told the story to my friend DA who said, "oh yeah!   That's 'I Am' by Jill Phillips."  By the next week he had the words prnted off for me with guitar chords.  I sang it like I heard it and he followed along.

Before moving on, let me apologize for the long post because it's going to be longer.  I would also like to stop here and acknowledge a divine hand in this situation.  I heard a song twice, when I needed to hear it, but that had not actually been played on the radio.  In fact, the song was from 1999 and hadn't been played on regular rotation with the radio station for a couple of years!  That's a God thing!

So, it's now summer of 2004.  My great aunt Linda only has a few months to live.  (she was the daughter of my great grandma who had passed away in January).  I decided to record myself singing some hymns on a cd to send to her.  Some wonderful friends of mine came togehter to help me with the project.  While there we added 'I Am'.  My aunt loved the cd and the testimony behind 'I Am'.

August 2004:  I was asked to sing at our annual church Reunion right before my grandpa's sermon. I was terrified to sing in front of people that I knew, especially A LOT of people that I knew.  I picked a simple hymn and asked DA to play guitar for me.  He, of course, had a better idea.  He told me to sing 'I Am'.  I told him I would sing it only if our friend Jesse would agree to add the violin part he had worked up while we were recording.  I just knew that Jesse would say no, but instead he agreed, so I was stuck.

Sitting in the pew before I was to sing was horrible for me.  I was visibly shaking, I felt sick, and I hoped that I would fall over dead instead of having to go up front and sing.   Death did not come.  When I got to the front of the church I scanned the congregation while Jesse and DA got their instruments ready.  I realized something.  I bet there were multiple people sitting in the room who felt like things in their life were chaotic, who were sad, who had $20 left until the next paycheck, or who were sick.  Who was I to be nervous when God could use me to deliver such a message: He is Constant.  Nothing else is, but He is.  My nerves did not subside but I sang to Him and for the people in the pews that day. 

To many church members I am now known as the I Am girl.  I was shy about it at first, not wanting attention.  Now, when someone brings up that song or calls me the I Am girl I take the opportunity to tell them the testimony behind that song.

In closing, I want to share something that happened in 2009.  I went to visit friends in Phoenix and was talking to a woman in the church local there about the song.  She said, "Have you heard the original song?  It doesn't sound anything like how you sing it...it's not as pretty."  I am not including that statement to be prideful.  In fact, the way I sing it does not sound how I originally heard it because, well, I don't have access to an orchestra! 

I found the artists version of the song and discovered this lady was right! It wasn't just a little different; it was nothing like what I heard in the car those two times that I needed comfort.  In fact, if I had heard the artists version, I don't think I would have connected with it; there was no orchestral intro that brought me peace in the first place!  It was sort of twangy too and although I like the version and I love Jill Phillips' music, I believe God let me hear what would get through to my restless heart.  I cannot fully express in a blog what the words in the song mean to me but I hope that I made some sense to anyone reading this.

As I've gotten older and experienced even more ups and downs, disappointments, and uncertainties that song pops into my head and I realize that if everything changed, if everything dissolved away, God will still be constant and will see me through.  I was able to put that thinking to the test when my engagment to Ike ended.  By that time, it was more like a divorce than a regular break up and I struggled a great deal.  Everything had changed and dissolved and I was left to figure out where to go from there...."the tide can change to so fast, but I will stay, the same in the past the same in the future the same today."  God saw me through and still does.

I Am by Jill Phillips

Oh gently lay your head
Upon my chest
And I will comfort you
Like a mother while you rest
The tide can change so fast,
But I will stay
The same through the past,
The same in future, same today


I am constant; I am near
I am peace that shatters all your secret fears
I am holy; I am wise
I'm the only one who knows your heart's desires
Your heart's desires

Oh weary, tired and worn,
Let out your sighs
And drop that heavy load you hold
Cause Mine is light

I know you through and through;
There's no need to hide
I want to show you love
That is deep and high and wide

Oh gently lay your head
Upon my chest
And I will comfort you
Like a mother while you rest

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Home Ec: They Had it Wrong

In junior high and high school I took the required Home Economics classes but didn't retain much other than how to sew on a button.  I cooked and baked since the age of four with my mom so most of those lessons were review.  Home Ec also confirmed my resolve to never be a homemaker.  I remember one time the teacher said, "And ladies, pay attention, this will be important to your husband when you get married."  I fantasized about building a teleportation device so I could shove her into it and send her back to the 1950s.  I was not going to "darn" anyone's socks or mend broken zippers or EVER own a sewing machine.  That's what stores are for, right?  Your socks have holes in them?  Go to Costco and stock up.  I was also set on being a career woman and figured if I married I would find someone who was self-sufficient who would share in some of the household responsibilities.  At that age, I had the mentality of: He can do it himself!!  (I have calmed down a bit since then :) )

Really quickly, I would like to put in a little disclaimer:  I highly respect those who have chosen to be homemakers, especially those that are good at it.  It's just not me.  I also believe that if we, as a society, are preparing young girls to be good wives, we should focus less on keeping a neat house and cooking meals and focus more on preparing them to be emotionally healthy as individuals so that they can be successful in a relationship.

I cook and I clean but only because it's necessary, not because I think it will increase my chances of becoming a wife.  In fact, if that's the only thing holding me back then I guess I don't want to be one.

In Home Ec, I remember that we spent a lot of time cooking and baking and that was fun as long as it wasn't implied that I had to learn this skill in order to find a man.  I like to cook and bake and I like to eat so this part of Home Ec was fun.  Meal planning--I slept through that one.  The dreaded "carry a bag of flour around and pretend it's a baby"--I somehow got out of that one.  Despite the fact that I did not have to care for a sack of flour for a week, I love children and am good with them....I should tell my home ec teacher becasue I'm sure she was worried about it (insert sarcastic smirk here).

So why did they have it all wrong?  Because while girls like myself were being forced to learn about being perfect wives and mothers (when really we were dreaming about careers and titles, traveling, and freedom), they should have included some lessons on being the perfect single woman.  What do I mean?  Well, I will be honest.  I work full-time and go to school full-time.  I have a plan for my life and it involves helping others, traveling, etc.  While I do think I would like to be married to a person who compliments my life, I also haven't met anyone who has that potential.  I have met and dated, even been engaged, to pretty awesome men (okay, and also NOT so awesome men), but the forever factor wasn't there for us.  And that's okay.  Most of them are now my really close friends, which is nice. 

**For those who think I'm a total feminist: when in a serious relationship, I do like to take care of him and cook meals....but many times my version of that is saying, "Hey I'll pick up the check this time!"

A few months ago, I decided that since I eat really healthy I needed to look at the rest of my life.  I have crazy allergies and I was determined to cut down on the number of strange reactions I have.  One of the things I struggle with are basic household cleaners.  In the middle of winter I have to open every window while cleaning, wear a bandana around my mouth and nose (it's attractive, let me tell you) while I'm cleaning because I have a hard time breathing when in direct contact with the chemicals in the cleaners.  I also break out into with a mild case of hives and my lungs burn for hours.  This can't be healthy.  Since my nephew is over a lot, I also started thinking about things he was touching and putting in his mouth.  Is it safe?  Is he ingesting all those chemicals?

After doing a lot of research, I started making my own household cleaners.  Everything from laundry detergent, to toilet cleaners, stain removers, and window cleaners.  I was, of course, a little cynical about this whole idea but tried it anyway.  Four months later, my counter tops look cleaner than they ever did when I used store bought cleaners.  There are no stains or water spots in my sinks or shower.  My apartment has a naturally fresh scent and I no longer look like a robber when I clean.

I threw out all my old cleaners and replaced them with ingredients that I mix up when I need them:  Borax, Hydrogen Peroxide, baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar.  All of these ingredients take care of my carpet, windows, drains, laundry, dishes, counters, sinks, stove top, etc.  Also, I quit buying those plug in air fresheners, because they are not healthy to breathe in.  Instead I get cute little glass tea light holders and put a mixture of baking soda and lemon juice in them.  The lemon juice adds a natural scent and the baking soda absorbs odors.  Sometimes I change those out and fill the tealight holders with coffee grounds and my whole apartment smells like Starbucks :)

Another great aspect of this whole endeavor is that I no longer store chemicals in my home. I make only what I need at time that I am cleaning.  Then, I rinse out the spray bottles and store them, empty, where I used to keep harmful chemicals.  I have peace of mind that my nephew will not come into contact with the old cleaners and have even removed the locks from my lower kitchen cabinets.

The other perk?  I have saved myself close to $50 in 4 months.  I don't buy a different cleaner for every part of my apartment--all those commercials where they tell you that you need something special for showers and something else for kitchen counters?  False.  You DO need a different mixture of the base ingredients.  For showers with soap buildup or rust and mildew....spray down with vinegar water, let it set for 10-20 minutes and then wipe down with peroxide and water.  Set some baking soda in a cup or dish and it will absorb the vinegar smell.

And finally, no more hives!  No more burning lungs!  More money in my bank account!  Clean, germ free surfaces!

THIS is what I should have learned in Home Ec.  How to care for my place of residence, while maintaining a heatlhy lifestyle and on a budget.  But I'm sure had this been taught in my home ec classes, we would have been told how happy our hypothetcial future husbands would be :)