If you have a story you would like to share, email me or leave a link in the comment section.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Music of Angels

*** I debated if this post was right for this particular blog... But, ultimately, I decided there were angels enough in this story. ***

A blogging friend of mine posted a touching post about music the other day and it got me reminiscing...

My daddy was a band teacher. When he was younger, he and his brothers sang in barbershop groups, played in a swing band, and sang at every family function. He sang me to sleep each night with old “standards” while he stroked my forehead with his thick, course hands. He filled our home with piano arrangements of songs like "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue" and "Melancholy Baby." Music was a part of our home. Our life.

Many of my siblings are musical. Each has their own special musical prowess. My baby sister, especially. If anyone ever wanted to hear what an angel sounds like, they would only have to listen to her sing.

Me? Not so much. I think my ADHD attention span kept me out of that line in heaven. I love to sing. I love music. But I have no technical skill. No gift for it. But I FEEL it. My hubby can listen to a piece of music and identify all the different instruments and different rhythms. I just notice if it makes me move or think.

I have learned that everyone enjoys music in different ways... But one thing is sure... And that is that music is so very powerful. It has the ability to influence for good or bad. It can move a person to tears or make them dance with joy. I believe that there is a part of our beings that exist musically.

In the case of my sweet daddy, music helped him fight the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. My dad suffered with this heart-wrenching disease for about 20 years, the last 6 years being spent in a nursing home.

My mom, having been his sole care giver, suddenly had nothing to do once he was placed in a care center. Wanting to help and show her love to him somehow, and knowing how much my dad loved music, she would walk to his nursing home each day, hauling a keyboard behind her on a luggage carrier. (She herself was burdened down with the pain of osteoporosis)

Each day, she carted that keyboard to my dad's nursing home so he could play. And each day, though he couldn't remember her name, he played songs on the keyboard for my mom. Songs like he used to play on our home piano when I was little.

Eventually, the nursing home saw how important the music was to my dad and found an old piano to keep in the lounge for him to play. And my dad would play. The nurses loved my dad. Despite the fact that he would get ornery during personal hygiene routines, he won their hearts. In fact, one of his nurses, used to be one of his band students. (Talk about coming full circle)

Almost to the very end, even though my daddy had forgotten everything else, he remembered the music. It wasn't until a few months before he passed that he stopped playing... I think because he couldn't physically sit up to the piano.

I love that the ability to play piano and feel music was so engrained into my father that he couldn't forget it. I love that my mother, inspired by love, kept him playing as long as she could. And while I could have never admitted this at the time, she was my dad's angel.

Music is very powerful. And while I recognize that I may not have the gift for performing it... I also recognize the gift for enjoying it. And for that, I am grateful.

"Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following right on up until you die." -- Paul Simon

Thursday, April 23, 2009

When an angel's wings are broken...

I have gotten to know someone over the last little while who I have come to respect and to love. I have been amazed at her strength, faith and devotion. In her life, she strives to do good. To be good; to lift the weary arms of those she knows. Her soft, kind gestures often go unnoticed to all but God Himself. She is the kind of person you come away from, feeling better about yourself, better about the world. She helps restore faith in mankind; proving the goodness of human nature. She is what I imagine as an everyday angel. Maybe not moving life’s symbolic mountains, but instead, helping people climb over them.

My friend’s heart is broken. She recently experienced a loss beyond all comprehension. I have been touched by her personal struggle; her determination to conquer despair and foster peace. Learning about this dear person has given me cause for thought.

What happens when an angel’s wings are broken? Who is there to mend them? At what point do those who minister, become ministered to?

There is a story from the Old Testament that offers the answer to that question. The prophet Elisha and his companions awoke one morning to find themselves surrounded by the army of the enemy. Immediately, Elisha’s servant was fearful, as anyone would be. Then Elisha spoke these words…

“And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” (2 Kings 6:16 KJV)

At that point, the servants eyes were opened and he saw the mountains surrounding them FILLED with horses and chariots of fire.

(Yeah – that is pretty cool!)

I am convinced that when the angel’s wings are burdened with sorrow, heavy with grief and broken from pain, there are, waiting in places we cannot see, real Heavenly angels ready to sustain us through our battles.

Eventually the angels wings heal. Eventually the pain lessens and burdens are made lighter. But never are those unseen, divine forces taken from us.

So, to my dear angel friend, who is struggling to find her wings again, know that there is more celestial power than you can see.

And to those of you who want to help someone today; offer a hug, a smile, a tender touch. You never know, you may be the one that helps heal those angel’s wings.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sometimes angels are those you love the most!

Since I was 16, my sweetheart has been a constant angel in my life. Whether sending me a note or making sure I had flowers to brighten my day.

But see, that is just the kind of guy he is.

He is the oldest of 7 children and is always looking out for his younger siblings. I find out about secret acts of kindness he does for those he knows are struggling. His heart is always tender towards the one that is suffering. That is one thing I love so much about him...

Here is a post of his. (I am taking spousal liberty here, he has no idea I am posting this :-))

In it is a song he wrote for those who struggle. At the time, I believed it really lifted the spirits of those who needed it. He has been an angel to many people. And my hope is, that by posting this, he will again, be an angel to someone else.

When I was a young father, I worked overnight shifts at a group home for
adults that had schizophrenia. They each lived in their own apartment, but
needed someone living close by to help them when they started feeling afraid,
alone, or needed some other type of support. Each had a story, although some
could barely remember it. They each had a family somewhere, but few ever
visited. One lady in particular really had a painful life. She had some
beautiful young children who were removed by CPS because she was deemed to be an unfit parent. Her parental rights were severed, they were adopted, and she never
saw them again. Their pictures in hand, she cried herself to sleep most nights.
Many of of the men and women who lived there kept the television on day and
night, because it left too lonely of a feeling to turn it off.

I had challenges of my own, or so I thought. My body didn't respond well to working overnights, and I was always exhausted. I missed my wife and young son, who I got to spend little time with. I made about $1200 per month, and my family's health insurance premiums cost about $850. That obviously didn't leave much for anything else, so we had to find other ways to bring in some money. I wondered how long this would continue, and I didn't see any end in sight.

My sister had challenges. She thought she had found the man of her dreams, but she had just found out that he was moving on and the relationship wasn't heading where she hoped it had been heading. This was her first real boyfriend, although she was now an adult, and she worried she'd never find someone again.

My mom had challenges. One night she called me while I was working in the middle of the night and was crying so hard she could barely talk. I don't remember what was wrong, I just remember the pain in her voice and thinking for the first two minutes of the call that it was one of the adults at the group home calling for support.

All these things weighed on my mind. Why do people suffer? How do you endure even one more day when it feels unbearable? How do you find a ray of hope in complete darkness? A thought came to my mind that my mom told me often growing up -- "sometimes all you can pray is that you can make it through the night."

The thoughts of my mother, my young family at home, my sister, and especially the woman living in the group home who had lost her children stayed on my thoughts throughout the remainder of that night. I pulled out a pen and paper and wrote this song:

Joy Cometh in the Morning
copyright 2000 Tim Penrod

Over, finally through
Don't remember ever feeling so truly
Finished, such despair
Life is ruined, and I don't even care
Hour upon hour lying here
Trying to hold back each crushing tear
I'm weeping for a night
There's nothing left to do
No sleeping this night
Forget that there's a morning
Following my mourning
And crying from my soul
Emptiness has taken control
Weeping shall endure this night so hard
This night, life broke my heart

Behold, I knock upon your door
As one who's been through weeping before
I carry a healing salve
Some rescue from your world that seems bad
Hour upon hour waiting here
Let me wipe away your painful tears
By healing you this night
Have faith that this is true
And cheering your heart tonight
Forget that awful sorrow
By choosing now to borrow
Some Balm of Gilead
To soothe your soul from everything sad
Weeping may endure this night of mourning
But joy cometh in the morning

Sometimes all we can do is pray to make it through the night. Thanks, mom, for
those words of wisdom.

This Easter season, I am grateful for He that has been through weeping before...He that can heal. We sometimes bear burdens so great that no person on earth could ever understand. Only the one who suffered for the burdens of all can truly understand. He knows heartache, loneliness, rejection, betrayal, grief. He knows you and I.

I am a Marriage and Family Counselor, and I love the field of psychology. But one thing I know for certain is that theories of behavior are man's ideas of how to help
one another. They can help, but nothing heals like the healing of the Savior of
Mankind. And the funny thing is we don't always even realize that we are in the
process of being healed in the very moment we think we've been abandoned.

I am grateful that there was one who loved us enough to make this sentence true:"The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes, we are healed."For those who find themselves in the middle of a dark night: Believe and hope that joy, and healing, cometh in the morning.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lifting the Hands that Hang Down

Heather over at A Goddess in Progress is an angel in her own right. She has been encouraging people to get healthy one step at a time. Recently, Heather experienced a heartbreaking experience of her own and needed angels to attend to her… here is her story.

"you know that song -oh i believe there are angels among us, sent down to us, from somewhere up above, they come to you and me in our darkest hours to show us how to live, to teach us how to give, to guide us with the light of love-

yesterday, i was surrounded with angels i've previously only known as
friends. hubby HAD to go to work, i wasn't feeling ready to be alone -and then
kemra called. she stayed on the phone with me for at least four hours. shortly
after i hung up with her -there was a knock on my door. i wasn't sure i wanted
to see anyone, but i got up and answered it anyway. wendy was standing there.
"Hi." she says, "I was just walking home, and I thought I should stop by and see
you. A little random, I know, but how are you doing?" I say, "Good. I'm good. Do
you want to come in?" She steps in -sees the flowers and the heating pad and the
mess my house is (was) and says "What's going on?" I tell her. "I knew I was
supposed to stop by. What can I do?" -she visited me for awhile. She brought me
movies and red raspberry tea. She asked me to please call her if i need
anything. then, not so long after she stopped in, my sister in law showed
up. she brought me sweet potato fries -the ones she knows I love, and then she
cleaned my house. how great was all of that?

thank you, all of you. thanks for the emails and the phone calls. thanks for the thoughts and prayers. i feel your love"

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Good Neighbor

Here is another one from my other blog. I am sure everyone has stories they would like to share... add a link to the comments below. In the meantime, meet my resident angels.

The news has always been full of unsettling information. Especially lately. Communities, nations and the world seem to be in constant turmoil. It can get a person down. It is difficult sometimes to recognize the Hand of God on a planet where belief of Him is smothered by the loud voices of opposition. And yet, in this crazy world, there is goodness. We just have to open our eyes.

Goodness comes in many forms. In my case, it appears in the form of a good neighbor. I have learned many lessons since living in this home, one of which is what a good neighbor is.

The good neighbor looks after your kids when you are not around – keeping them from running in the street or beating up their brother. She doesn’t judge you for having a messy house or frumpy cloths. She celebrates with you during your happy moments and cries with you during your difficult times. The good neighbor helps stop plumbing leaks. He is willing to pull your “ox out of the mire” to keep your home from catching fire. He is there to assist in priesthood blessings. The good neighbor pays attention to your home while you are away. She visits you while you cry over your child in the hospital. She goes beyond her own comfort to help you pull off a wedding reception. She scrubs your floor while you are in the hospital. He helps lift boxes. He gives your children rides places. The good neighbor looks past your imperfections but still helps you keep perspective. She listens while you complain and validates your feelings. You can call the good neighbor in the middle of the night for help. The good neighbor helps you figure out what illness your child has. You can count on the good neighbor for emotional strength and support. You know the good neighbor is there for you, come what may. You learn compassion from the good neighbor. You learn “tricks of the (mothering) trade” You learn how to be a good neighbor. The good neighbor gives you more than you could ever return.

Our family has been overly blessed with such neighbors. And it makes me think about what this world would be like if we could all be good neighbors. Reaching out not only to our next door neighbors, but to those we interact with each day. How would this world be a better place if we each took a little more effort to be a good neighbor? How have you been affected by a good neighbor?

I believe that the world, especially now, needs more good neighbors. More people to reach out, get involved and love those around us. How can you be a better neighbor?