Thursday, March 28, 2013

To See the Face of God

I know that there is a higher power that loves and watches over me.

To most Americans, God is our higher power.  For others, that power is Krishna, Buddha, Zeus, the list goes on.  Reading this knowing that God is my higher power, imagine whatever is your higher power.

Because of the great example of unconditional love that my earthly father sets for me, I am certain that my Heavenly Father is guiding my paths and protecting me daily.  My center, my constant, is knowing there is a higher power in the universe.  Several personal events have occurred in my life that leave me with no question as to the existence of higher power – the impossible has been made possible, the warmth of comfort has spread over me like a blanket in times of cold despair. 

Gymnastics changed my life.  More importantly, my gymnastics coach, Pastor Brian Anderson, changed my life.   I sometimes feel I use the analogy of the gymnastics coach too often, but I can’t stop seeing everything crystal clearly in these terms.  Imagine God as your gymnastics coach.  He teaches you strength-building conditioning, flexibility exercises, drills for form and stamina all before teaching you actual gymnastics skills because you need a foundation to build upon.  Once he teaches you a skill, he will stand there, spotting you with all the strength he has to help you successfully complete the task at hand without falling.  Once he knows in his gut you can do it on your own, he steps away.  What happens then?  Well, most often what happens at least once is that our faces, hineys, or bellies end up on the floor in a heap.  For our own betterment, the coach watches us fall.  He is there to scoop us up in his arms in times of true, desperate injury, however most often we are merely bumped or bruised.  In my own experiences as a coach, this was the most difficult thing for me, yet I knew if I didn’t step back and let the gymnasts try the skills on their own, they would never learn to succeed.  What I wanted more than anything was to step in and protect them!  But what brought me joy unlike any other was watching those moments the gymnasts succeeded!  The look on someone’s face as they complete their first handspring vault and you both run towards each other squealing and jumping up and down is pure bliss.      

I imagine my father in heaven much the same way – teaching us the foundation principles, giving us guidance and help, yet stepping back so we can truly learn what this life is all about.  Will we fall?  Absolutely.  The key is to get back up and keep trying instead of laying there in that miserable lump cursing the coach who let us fall.   Much like the coach who watches us stand on the end of the balance beam, hesitant to try a back-tuck dismount for the first time, God is empathetic and understanding of each decision we make and why…he knows our hesitancies, our discomforts, our strengths. 

Some of you out there wonder how God could let children be harmed, how He could let loving parents die in car accidents, how He could let pure evil like Hitler reign.  I do not have answers for that.  I wish I did.     

What I can say is that I have a divinity inside of me.  Many times I have been pulled aside and hugged in a tearful embrace as someone shares with me how grateful they are for the influence of the goodness and light that radiate from me.  When I was 17, a man who appeared to be ancient to me placed his arms upon my shoulders, piercingly looked into my eyes and said, “The eyes are the gateway to the soul.  You have beautiful eyes.  You have a beautiful soul.”  This light is a gift, a blessing.  Again, I cannot answer as to why my life has been gifted this and not gifted to an afflicted child in a third-world country.  The answer is beyond my comprehension. 

I share this with you because the events of the world have left me torn and confused for many years.  There are ideas and principles in the LDS church that I don’t understand or agree with.  I have a desire of knowledge, although I am far from a knowledge in most things.  But above all else, I firmly know my Heavenly Father loves me.  I know he loves every single one of us in a way that is absolutely incomprehensible to us.  I know my life is wonderfully blessed because of the principles and guidelines I have followed as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  There is a place for everyone in the Church if they want it.  Whether in 100% agreement or not, I know this is where I need to be.  I know that we fumble around on this earth and as long as we are trying to, wanting to be good people, the Lord will understand.  To love another person is truly to see the face of God.  To love another person is the divine higher power in each of us.  

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Life on the Island of Misfit Toys: Another Guest Post for The Cultural Hall Podcast

After writing my last post for The Cultural Hall Podcast, a bigger issue came to light than that of which I was writing: Why are grown single adults of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often treated as if they are adolescents?  As one of our readers commented, there is “…the state of arrested development that LDS singles often live in. We age, beholden to the same rules and expectations placed on us at age 12, without the benefit of the doubt that we actually matured beyond age 12.”

If you want to read more, and I promise it is a lot more optimistic than this first paragraph sounds, head on over to The Cultural Hall Podcast website.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

What Happens When 5 Mormons Dressed as Nuns Perform in a Baptist Church?

Just so you can’t say I didn’t tell you –

It’s time for me to again entertain the masses *cymbal crash* as a singing, tap-dancing, baton-twirling, ballerina nun.  

The cast members of Nunsense, including me, were on ABC4 this morning.  

The musical comedy, runs tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday (March 21, 22, and 23) each night at 7:30 pm at the First Baptist Church on 3831 S. 2700 W.  Tickets are $7 each. 

To quote the show, "Though we're on our way to heaven, we're here to raise some hell!" 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hit and Run

One year ago today I bought my car.

Exciting, I know.

Today I got a car wash in celebration of a fantastic first year together, then lamented at the paint-cracked, scratched rear bumper from my hit-and-run.

I never told you about that, did I?

I headed home for the evening January 16, all excited to have a girly evening, involving the fantastic Leah Jacobs doing my hairs for me.  I almost hate that there is something so wonderful about the feeling of being pampered and sprucing up with a little cut/color.  Silly money-wasting things like this should not feel so blasted fantastic!  To make the evening even better, I always pick us up some dinner for us, which requires commuting a different direction than normal.

Murray State Street during rush hour can make you feel as if you are a chess piece on a board with three times as many pieces as there should be, shuffled against your will in a general direction by an unseen hand.  With my destination in sight, I pulled up one-car's length behind the car in front of me at a stop light, as per proper-driving rules.  Yes, I'm a law-abiding driver to a fault. 

Before I could realize what was happening, I found myself slamming on my brakes, my gym bag flying off the seat, and my head flipping backwards into the headrest.  There is a moment of panic no one can quite describe in a situation like that.  To say I was an idiot is mild.  I put my car in park and got out in the middle of four rush-hour lanes of traffic.  The scruffy young riff-raff who hit me did the same.

His license plate dangled from one overly-jagged screw on his ghetto early-90s tan compact truck.  My little blue Honda was covered in winter salt and sludge, but I could clearly see the cracked paint, the outline of a license plate, and two screw-punctures exactly where his license plate met my bumper.  He smiled and said, "Well, there's no damage, so I'm fine if you're fine!"
"Umm...there actually is damage."
"Really?  I don't see any?"
"Umm..yes there is, right here. (I gesture to the two holes and the scratches as I try to brush off the grime)."
"Oh, okay, so you wanna pull over into that parking lot right there and get information?"
As I looked down at his license plate to memorize the digits thinking that I'd be an idiot not to, I responded, "Yeah...yeah...we're gonna have to do that."

Riff-Raff got back in his truck with his tattered clothes and equally bedraggled looking company.  I signaled to turn left, made sure he was behind me, then turned.  Would you believe that as soon as I turned left, he took off?  Yep.  And would you believe that in my panic I forgot all but the first three digits of his plate?

Lesson learned.  My estimate for the damage is only $600, which isn't even worth submitting to the insurance, but it it the principle of the thing, you know?  Knowing what I know about insurance, I would have, in all likelihood, let that scraggly young man go if he'd have let me know his situation instead of dishonestly running off.

I'm a big believer in the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have others do to you."  All I can do is shrug my shoulders and keep smiling.  C'est la vie!

I know, I know - it really isn't that bad, but keep in mind this photo was taken in the dark and you can't see both punctures clearly, the outline dents of the violater's plate, or the cracked paint running the length of the bumper.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Appearance of Evil

Want to read a controversial guest-post I did for The Cultural Hall Podcast? 

I'm warning you, this is a totally vanilla, boring topic for most  of the world, which explains why I have been insulted for the very first time with the word "insipid."

However, for the LDS audience, sleeping in the same hotel room as your boyfriend is quite the hullabaloo.  Who knew?   Apparently you can't sleep in the same room without having sex.  Except that I can.

Read the post.

Monday, March 4, 2013

My Diagnosis

Over the past two years, many of you have asked me, "Why aren't you doing shows anymore?"

Many of you have come to your own conclusions.  I have told many of you that I felt a sense of closure and I wanted to concentrate more on my personal relationships.  While both of these things are true, there is a third item that I hadn't mentioned except to a few of you in personal, one-on-one conversations.

I have been in pain for almost two years.  My throat, when I sang, would feel as if I had razor blades slicing up and down my vocal chord area.  No home remedy I tried eased the pain...nothing worked except for not using my singing voice.  Because the most severe pain directly coincided with a show I was doing where I'd speak like a boy one moment, then belt out D's the next, I was petrified I had nodes.

You've all seen Pitch Perfect (and if you haven't, you need to).   While they make light of "living with nodes," the truth is they are no laughing matter.  Most singers lose their chutzpah after being treated.  Some are even told they will never sing again.

Can you imagine being told you will never again do the thing you have loved to do most your entire life?  Can you imagine losing the one thing that has always made you feel safe?  Can you imagine losing the one way you feel you can truly express your deepest emotions?

Even though I'm merely an amateur community-theater show-tune lover, the thought broke my heart.  The thought lead me to many nights secretly shedding tears, pretending to others like my plight was no big deal.  Excuse after excuse spewed forth from my mouth instead of music.  Seeing the doctor meant I might hear words that would drop my glass heart from a skyscraper and shatter all of my dreams.  For two years, I have repeated these words in my nightmares, "You will never sing again.  You will never sing again.  You will never sing again."

Recently, I was asked to be a part of Nunsense - A Musical.  I defied my fears, yet with each rehearsal the pain once again sliced me with razor edges.  I'd often feel, "My voice is too tired to talk," accompanied with the thought, "You are an idiot - you could be causing more damage." 

As happens in life, whether emotional, spiritual, or physical, sometimes the pain becomes too much to stand another day without seeking a solution.

I made an appointment with a doctor I felt drawn to for some inexplicable reason.  Immediately, my fear became excitement...excitement that I would  finally know what had been inflicting me for so long.

After making the appointment, I found old e-mails from musically-gifted friends who had had nodes, referring me to this doctor.  At the appointment, I ran into an old friend who, unbeknownst to me, is a doctor at that facility.  All of these things continued to make me feel at ease.

Have you ever had your throat scoped?  Incredibly cool and incredibly uncomfortable. True to my tough-girl form, I only gagged once! 

The doctor quickly calmed my fears, "Well, you aren't Adele!"  No nodes!

But what the heck was wrong with me then?

"See that redness, swelling, and generally raw-looking skin around your chords?  You have Laryngopharyngeal Reflux." 

Folks, I've never had heartburn a day in my life.  I was baffled.  Doc let me know he refers to my condition as "singer's reflux", or "silent reflux," because he finds it most often in singers and we don't have any other symptoms aside from throat pain and hoarseness.   The only treatment is to follow a rather stringent list of dietary rules, sleeping-position rules, and to take medication every morning and every night.  These treatments may not be things I have to do forever, but at least for the next few months.

The best news I could have ever imagined hearing from the doctor (who was so sweet and almost as excited as I was)?

"Yes!  You are free to sing!  Within three weeks, you should be pain-free!" 

I'm not comfortable with the idea of having a "disease."  I'm the healthy girl, right?  The one who always marks the box, "Not taking any medications."  The one who goes to the gym every day.  The one who carries bananas and fiber-protein bars in her purse as snacks.  The one who only gets legitly sick maybe once every two years.  Now I have to put two real pills in my vitamin containers?   Not my idea of fun.

But you know what is my idea of fun?  Singing at the top of my lungs, unreserved, unabashed, and FREE!