Be Still

As an adult, I understand the importance of being still. Not only to rest but also to listen. When I am still and quiet, important messages do not go unnoticed. A quiet “I love you” or “You’ve been on my mind” provides reassurance and security.

Being still is not automatic. It takes practice. Especially in our fast-paced, instant news world.

What about children? They need quiet moments, too. But if being still is not automatic for me as an adult…well, my expectations for students might need adjusting. Today brought a perfect example.

This afternoon, one young friend entered my classroom running at full speed. The other students were sitting down in rows at the front of the room, preparing for music class. But not this friend. He continued to run circles in the back of the room.

This student’s classroom teacher is kind and patient. She quickly noticed the situation and offered assistance while sharing vital information. The heartbreaking story immediately changed my perspective. Patience was going to be required.

My friend eventually joined the group. But near the end of class, I noticed increased restlessness. “Would you like to sit in my lap?” I asked. “Yes,” he answered with a little smile. Not able to relax, he soon asked to sit next to me instead.

When it was time to line up, guidance was needed. But holding my hand only brought resistance. Not ready to give up, I asked if I could pick him up. “Yes!” he replied and lifted up his little hands.

We played a game while we waited. One I used to play with my own children. I would say, “Are you ready?” Then I would pretend to drop him. Of course, I would “catch” him half-way down. He would laugh and say, “Again, again, again!”

This game was definitely not a still or quiet moment. And this friend definitely needs some quiet moments. Moments where he feels love and security. But those will only happen over time through meaningful connections.

Was our little game one of those connections? Maybe. I hope so. But I’m afraid it will take many more before this little friend can truly be still.

In the meantime, I think I need to be still and quiet. 😉

Beautifully Imperfect

I have a favorite photo of me and the kids. I remember the day it was taken. It was quickly snapped by a friend, not the result of a professional photoshoot.

Look at those sweet faces! ❤

Everyone is looking in different directions. We are tired and messy. And yet, it remains my top pick.

The picture always surfaces this time of year. When I saw it this morning, I began to think about what it represents-an honest reflection of one day in the life of a young, stay-at-home mom.

That particular day was far from perfect. I remember having a migraine earlier that afternoon. The medicine I took made me sleepy. I also remember my husband, Gart, was not be able to attend the fall festival with us. He had a graduate school class that night. That meant I had three kids to get ready for the evening festivities by myself.

With the help of some friends, we made it to the party. Everyone had a costume. Robert was Superman, Rachel-Tigger, and Ryan-a baby bumblebee. The kids had fun playing games, spending time with friends, and collecting candy. If you look closely, you can see their candy buckets hanging on the handles of Ryan’s stroller.

My friend took the picture at the end of the evening. I remember collapsing onto the floor. The kids just naturally settling in my lap. Three tired kids and one tired mom. Yet in the picture, I am still smiling.

After considering the story surrounding my favorite photo, I am left with this truth: A perfect picture has more to do with the memories it evokes than with the image itself.

Our picture is beautifully imperfect. It reminds me of a busy and challenging time in my life. A time I would not trade for all the perfect pictures in the world.

Just Like a Kid Again

Over thirty years have passed since I moved from my childhood home west of Little Rock, Arkansas. I always enjoy trips back to visit. And I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon which often occurs on these visits. It lasts only a few seconds, yet reflects a lifetime.

Time at home typically includes seeing my parents, my brother and his family, aunts, uncles, and sometimes cousins. Time for catching up is a necessity. How are the kids? Gart? Your new job? Who’s getting married? Having a baby?

Our conversations flow freely from current life events and challenges to past memories. Laughter fills the air as we reminisce about things that happened years ago. Remembering those times is refreshing, solidifying, even more, the importance of family in my life.

And then it happens. For a few brief moments, I’m a little girl again. Skipping across the yard to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncle, cousins. My parents, aunts, and uncles are suddenly young adults once more. No gray hair, no aches or pains.

Just as quickly, reality snaps me back. I am no longer that little girl. They are no longer those young adults. Now, I am also a grownup, walking beside them. I may no longer be skipping, but my heart is smiling.

These moments leave me grateful. Moments in which the memories of childhood wash over me. Sweet moments in which I feel just like a kid again. ❤

Chanel No. 5

I don’t wear a lot of perfume. I’ve had a couple of favorites as an adult, but allergy sensitivities often keep me from enjoying them. Currently, I own one bottle of Chanel No. 5.

I’m not sure how long I’ve had this particular bottle. During our recent unpacking, it caught my eye. I could not remember the last time it was open. The design is so classic and pretty, I decided to leave it out.

One morning last week while getting ready for school, that bottle of Chanel caught my eye again. This time, I opened it and placed a small drop on my finger, then dabbed it on my neck and wrists. “It might be nice to wear a little perfume again,” I thought.

As the familiar scent filled the air, a flood of memories filled my mind.

When I was a little girl, visits to my Aunt Martha and Uncle James’s house were a treat. They, along with their children-Jim, Angela, and Brad-moved several times. I remember trips to Fayetteville, Memphis, and Louisiana. Typically, it was a week-long visit during summer vacation.

Some memories are as clear as a photograph. Dressing my cousin, Angela, up in her Raggedy Ann doll clothes. Riding the bus with my cousin, Jimmy, from Little Rock to Memphis and spilling an entire big bag of M&Ms. Kick boxing with Uncle James. Rolling a piano from room to room so I could play while Martha and James painted their house.

So, why did this sweet smell cause such reminiscing? Because Aunt Martha always had a bottle of Chanel No. 5. And when I visited, she would let me wear some of her perfume. Just a tiny drop on my finger, then dabbed on my neck and wrists. Such a treat for a little girl.

I continue to be amazed by the beautiful complexity of the heart and mind. The simple scent of perfume has the power to transport me back in time. It leads me to precious childhood memories. And it reminds me that the love I experienced then has only grown over the years.

I still live far away from Aunt Martha and Uncle James. I look forward to our visits, no matter how far apart. And I am thankful for time spent with them as a child.

Who would have thought a bottle of Chanel No. 5 could make such an impression on one little girl? 😉

A Child’s Laughter

There is magic in the laughter of a child. Equally innocent and powerful. All you have to do is listen. Feeling stressed? Your cares will disappear. Feeling grumpy? Your spirits will be lifted.

Today I experienced this phenomenon while babysitting for some good friends. Their little boy is three years old. What an imagination! And his laugh? Contagious!

We played outside, ate snacks, read books, and watched Sesame Street. But the real fun came when we got out the playdough. Our creations included an airplane, Sponge Bob and a birds nest. We also cut out shapes and created patterns.

In the middle of playdough time, my little friend said something I didn’t quite understand. As I attempted to repeat his words back to him, he started laughing. “No, silly,” he said in his sweet little voice. He then proceeded to say the word again. Still unsure, I tried once more. Now it had turned into a game. A game which continued for five minutes, the two of us laughing our heads off.

Tired from all our playing and laughing, he soon fell asleep on the couch. Watching him sleep, so quiet and peaceful, I realized something. His sweet laugh had cleared my head and filled my heart.

What a perfect picture. Can you see it? This sweet boy sitting at his little kid table, me sitting crisscross on the floor (don’t try too hard to picture that) 😉 , playdough, and laughter. A room filled with laughter.

I know it sounds simple, but it is often in the simple things of life where we discover the profound.

The innocent laughter of a child, if we take time to listen, has the power to light our world. And if we join in? Well, we just might be surprised by the outcome.

So Much More Than Toys

Last evening I watched Toy Story 4 with my husband, daughter, and youngest son. My emotional reaction to the ending, though not surprising, made me question. Why am I crying over a movie about a bunch of toys?

The very first Toy Story movie was released a month before our oldest son, Robert, turned one. He is twenty-four. Toy Story 2 premiered when Rachel was two, now twenty-one. And Toy Story 3? Ryan was ten, now eighteen. You can do the math for Toy Story 4.

All four movies were sprinkled throughout the lives of our children. Our family watched while Andy grew up and Buzz and Woody became the best of friends. In a way, we grew up with them.

Many sets of Buzz and Woody toys graced our home over the years. I’m pretty sure there was even an Emperor Zurg living here at one time. And there may be a build-a-bear-frog wearing a Buzz Lightyear costume hiding somewhere in the garage. 😉

These stories are about so much more than toys. They provide a window into childhood. Viewers witness family dynamics such as single parenting and sibling rivalry. We feel the emotions of a mom letting go of her little boy. We watch a little boy recognize how much he has grown.

But what about the toys? Their adventures teach us about friendship and loyalty. All we need to do is consider Buzz and Woody, a cowboy and space ranger. Two unlikely friends who stick together through thick and thin. And the strength of their friendship provides security and support for their other toy friends and their kids.

These friendships also teach us about perseverance. In each of the four films, there are points in the story which seem to spell disaster. Yet, no matter what obstacle crosses their path they never give up. Together they stand up to Sid, the mean kid next door. A misguided bear, a toy seller in a chicken suit, and creepy ventriloquist dolls also prove no match for this determined group.

Toy Story shows us the importance of being loved, wanted, and needed. Lessons which begin in childhood but continue throughout our adult lives. They transport us to the place of hearing, “Job well done. Everything will be ok.”

It’s no surprise this series of animated movies have the power to bring a fifty-one-year-old woman to tears. Honestly, I cried during at least one scene in each story. I also laughed out loud and smiled until my face hurt.

Watching Toy Story 4 took me on a journey down memory lane. Not just the memories of the other movies, but also the memories of my children growing up. It also reminded me of lessons learned from a bunch of toys.

And looking back, I realize they are so much more than toys. ❤

Memories & Hymns

Some of my earliest memories of playing the piano in public are at church. I attended a small, country church as a child. On Sundays when the pianist was not there, the music director would come to get me out of Sunday school. “Ok, Kelley girl, which hymns do you know how to play?”

We would go over the list, making sure I was comfortable with each selection. After our short practice, it was time for the service. I’m not sure my exact age, elementary school, but I remember barely being able to see over the piano.

Who is this little girl? 😉

Thinking back to those early memories of playing, I don’t remember being nervous or afraid. I only remember being excited about the opportunity to play. The place and people provided encouragement and support. And it was fun!

Those early experiences lead to many more years of playing in churches. Different types of churches, services, funerals, weddings. Actually, I’ve spent more years playing piano in church than not.

Currently, I’m in one of those “not playing” times. Services have changed, much more involved and complex. Not that it’s a bad thing, just different. One that I don’t feel lead to do at this time. Maybe that will change in the future, who knows?

The simplicity of my childhood experiences is long gone. And although I sometimes miss that playing, I realize the important part remains. The music is forever part of my heart and mind.

The following is a short list of some of those early hymns:

  • Amazing Grace
  • In the Garden
  • Sweet Hour of Prayer
  • What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Sitting here on my couch typing, I can hear them in my mind. I can feel them in my fingers. I can see the notes and words on the pages. Sometimes they flood my thoughts right when I need them. 🙂

I am grateful for the memories of these hymns. They are a powerful part of my musical and spiritual foundation.

“…speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:19

What a Friend We Have in Jesus-Me playing in 2001. Arrangement by
Phillip Keveren