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