Thursday, October 13, 2011

Music Therapy

It's been a great week. Good progress on sewing projects, an evening run to the hot tub generously shared to us by the Boys on Laurelhurst (we are the Girls on Blaine, it works quite nicely). I have almost all the necessary components for my Halloween costume, which will be fun. A very busy, full few days at work.
The only part of this week that hasn't been as good was an unexpected, painful conversation with a friend last night that left me in a state of, shall we say, emotional delicacy. This is not the place to go into details, but it was a conversation that left me with a hole in my gut all day.
But I knew that I had something waiting for me at the end of the day- choir practice. A choir loft full of almost four hundred good, fun, loving people singing together. I found myself praying that I would find songs in my folder that could give me a happiness boost. As I flipped through the sheet music, I was a little disappointed that none of them stood out to me as old comfort favorites, but still to get to sing was good enough.

Then we started actually singing. Somewhere in the mix, we sang "Consider the Lilies," an old favorite of mine. I sang it at my college graduation for my bachelor's degree. Something about the last verse started working on my tear ducts

Consider the sweet, tender children who must suffer on this earth
The pains of all of them He carried from the day of His birth
He clothes the lilies of the field
He feeds the lambs of His fold
And He will heal those who trust Him and make their hearts as gold

It especially resonated because on Monday, as I was driving to work and having a little chat with God on the way, I happened to pose the question to Him, "why on earth do you put up with my crazy antics?" And the response came in a startling flash- an image from the previous evening, Sunday, when I had been playing with my great little buddy H-man, my 20-month-old nephew. He's got some antics, I tell you what. But I love him so much, and I think he's adorable.

As this came up in my mind, I started laughing out loud. "Heavenly Father, really? You think I'm adorable?" and I felt the answer come right back, "Yes. I do. You're my little girl and I love you."

So here I am, trying to be a sophisticated adult living on my own, having a career, and traveling the world, and my Father is telling me that I still am, and will always be, His little girl.

Consider the sweet, tender children who must suffer on this earth

All of this popped through my head while I sang tonight.

Then, we proceeded to sing "I Believe in Christ." I must admit, it's a stirring anthem, but it's never been one of my absolute favorite hymns, probably mostly because I don't like the flow of the melody. Regardless, tonight, since I was already leaking at the eyes, that song struck me more forcefully than usual. Once again, it was a certain segment of the last verse that really woke up my spiritual senses:

I believe in Christ, He stands supreme
From Him I'll gain my fondest dream
And while I strive through grief and pain
His voice is heard, ye shall obtain

And yes, I'm definitely feeling some grief and pain right now, and that made me tear up, but more powerful than my own emotions in this case, I had a memory pop up that I hadn't thought of for a long time. I remember, as a teenager, sitting on the church pew with my family and singing "I Believe in Christ" during sacrament meeting. I was sitting near my mom, who was probably about three or four years into her multiple sclerosis diagnosis, and definitely in a lot of pain- beyond my comprehension, and that was well over a decade ago. In any case, as we sang the last verse, she visibly began to weep. It touched me. She didn't outright complain much about her condition, so I guess back then it was relatively easy to forget how hard the disease had made her life. But she did, and does, believe in Christ, and is truly committed to the ideal of standing with Him at the last day.

I don't know why I thought of that tonight, except the theme of the evening seemed to be the tenderness of Christ's beckoning to us, first with Consider the Lilies and now through I Believe in Christ. By this point, I had salt streaks down my cheeks and the front of my dress was soaked. But you know what? I felt so good inside. Not happy, exactly, but peaceful with a deep kind of peace- I might even call it the peace that passeth understanding.

It turned out that there were a few other tender mercies in the form of songs, too, and by the time I left, although I was tired and ragged, I felt so good inside. I'll just leave you with the lyrics to the song that touched me the most. I wish I could play a recording of it on my blog, because the arrangement is breathtaking as well, but you'll just get the words tonight:
Praise, my soul, the King of heaven,
to the throne thy tribute bring;
ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
evermore God's praises sing.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise the everlasting King.

Praise the Lord for grace and favor
to all people in distress;
praise God, still the same as ever,
slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Glorious now God's faithfulness.

Fatherlike, God tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame God knows;
motherlike, God gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Widely yet God's mercy flows.

Angels in the heights, adoring,
you behold God face to face;
saints triumphant, now adoring,
gathered in from every race.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise with us the God of grace.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The House on Blaine and the Girls Who Lived There

I've been pondering lately, among many other things, that one of the biggest blessings I can ever have is deep, satisfying friendships with deep, satisfying people. And the interesting thing is that the deeper I delve into myself and the more satisfied I am with life in general, the better I appreciate and love the people around me.

I live with four amazing girls. We are so varied in our skills and interests, but we are so good for each other. We have a professional violinist, a therapist, a health and nutrition student and a biochemistry PhD student- and me, the genetics researcher. I love and trust them all, and my relationship with each girl is so different- I bet this is why Heavenly Father's work and glory is to serve His children- because we're such a diverse, interesting lot.

Amber and I often engage in what we refer to as "geeking out" together. She's our biochemist, and we frequently have discussions about various chemicals, funny stories from the lab, or our respective research, Amber also likes to play devil's advocate and tease a great deal, and my natural reaction is to challenge her right back when she's being contrary on purpose. It's quite entertaining. Amber's common sense supersedes even mine, and if someone shares an anecdote or study that sounds questionable to her, she'll run to her computer to research its veracity. She tells stories with such an understated, wry wit that we can't help but laugh.

And yet it's so different from my relationship with Amy. Amy is quiet and sweet and laughs at just about everything I say, which stokes my ego nicely. Amy will be on her deathbed before she complains about how she feels, and she's got some pretty big health problems. She's a calming influence on everyone and a day brightener. She brought both a piano and a very nice keyboard when she moved in, and she is a wonderful pianist, so our home is filled with even more music than it was before. She will lend you anything yo ask for- she lent me her bike when I did my triathlon in May and treated it like it was the biggest honor I could give her.

Kerstin is our other main musician, practicing her violin for many hours a day. She teaches and plays for events around the valley. She's also my compatriot on Temple Square, since she plays her violin on the Orchestra on Temple Square. She matches Amy in sweetness but it a little more vivacious and talkative- quite possibly our most talkative girl. She was also my gardening buddy this summer, since she was just as excited as I was to pull out the grass and plant the seeds. We spent some great time together on our knees in the dirt last spring. She has a constancy of faith that gives us all support.

Our second violinist is Cassaundra, although her violin gets about as much show time as my flute these days (read: not much). Cass is my fellow outdoors enthusiast, and she far outstrips me in terms of her activity. This girl loves motorcycles, rock climbing, snowshoeing, backpacking, hiking, and camping. She petite and spunky, and gentler than her red hair would suggest, but still with a good bit of snap to her personality. Cass has been my hot tubbing buddy recently as well, when we go down the street to take advantage of the boys' hot tub. She's very sensitive to emotions and relationship problems as one would expect from a girl with her master's in social work, but she's also very good at not wearing her therapist hat outside of work unless asked. But she also loves providing that assistance to friends in the right circumstances. She was an incredibly steadying figure for me last week when a long-overdue torrent of emotions burst out and created a very teary evening.

And there's me. I provide a lot of the leadership in the house- I set up times for us to do spring cleaning, to work on our emergency preparedness, to go out together for a roommate night on the town. I make the girls laugh a lot and provide a nice garden and a messy sewing table in the basement. And every night that we have roommate prayer, when we come in close for a group hug afterward, I look around and think how blessed I am. For the first time since I moved to Salt Lake, I feel like there is complete harmony in my home. Everyone's gift and personalities work together in such a beautiful way. It's safe. It's peaceful. It's a fortress from the world, and I love it.