God's Protection

Love Songs from the Minivan

Do you have certain songs that instantly make you want to sing in the car? What about those that make you cringe? Laugh? Dance? I do. Music has a way of getting to my soul. Most every genre, in every season of my life. I simply love music.

Last week I was leaving my house and a Bryan Adams song came on the radio. I used to be a big fan…even making a road trip to Charlotte with a group of my friends and sister Kristin circa 1992, complete with a pit stop to the Waffle House on the way back home via southbound I-85.

His gritty voice, singing about a summer when I wasn’t even born but still enjoyed the lyrics, his encouragement to never surrender {which I found out was really sung by Corey Hart after being disappointed Bryan left that one out at the concert}, and my favorite, ‘Heaven’. I pretty much liked all his music with the exception of ‘Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman’, which I thought had more cheese coming out of it than a squirt can pressed full throttle.

sisters high school cheerleading

Sisters – MHS Fall 1991

However, there was one of his songs featured in a Kevin Costner movie that at a time in my youth reminded me of a high school boyfriend. Did you ever have special songs?

Mixed tapes made, calling in to the radio station requesting the song and sitting there ready to press the play and record buttons at the same time to preserve it on cassette, and wondering how the DJ knew just when to stop talking before the words started. I even learned to play this particular song on the piano when the sheet music came out. So this one that was special eventually turned into a I-don’t-ever-want-to-hear-it-again song once that relationship ended.

I remember being at the Haywood Mall and literally walking out as fast as I could, trying to fight back tears as it was pumped through the department store airwaves. This song would have made the ‘Top 5 Torture Songs to Hear After a Breakup’ on the soundtrack of my teenage life.

As a grown woman with lots of life experience, I realize that may sound juvenile. However, at that time in my life, it was truthfully painful to hear.

So I’m backing out of my driveway, headed to pick up my youngest child at preschool. Lo and behold this song is on. And after about 5 seconds, I started LAUGHING. Instantly. Seriously. Could not stop cracking up.

Did I really used to cry at this? Race to turn the channel? Mindy Long – bless your 16 year old heart!! How cheesy is THIS song?

I wasn’t laughing at the girl who back in the early nineties had a struggle with hearing this song, as those were valid feelings at the time. I own them, and to a brokenhearted teenage girl, those emotions were authentic.

I wasn’t making fun of me by laughing. What I did do was begin to thank God through my laughs that He had a bigger, better plan for me.

That momentary heartache was a life lesson I would learn from and years later be so thankful for on more than one occasion, coming through a stronger and better person. Despite wishing the now-me could have given the then-me some swift advice on navigating the teen years {OH what I would tell her!}, all my life experiences both positive and negative shaped who I am today, and for that I am grateful.

God's protectionAll this said, I pulled over to the group box to check our mail as Mr. Adams was crooning about how I should know it’s true, that everything he does, he does it for me. I’m smiling thinking about all this wisdom I’ve gained since my teens {and admittedly shaking my head at the same time} and what I’d tell my younger self, and all these great things that come with age, and how 39 is starting to feel closer to a well-earned badge on the journey of life.

As I pull out the package in my mailbox, I laugh even louder! How ironic that during all this gratitude-for-age moment is my new bottle of fancy anti-aging serum I ordered… to help SLOW DOWN the aging process. Here I am wanting the wisdom that comes with age, yet longing for the skin of my youth {heck I’d even settle for the skin of my 20’s}.

Remember that graduation speech “Just wear sunscreen”? It’s true. I should have listened to my Mom and one of my dear friend’s Mom, who was a makeup artist and used to get on to me constantly about getting burned in the tanning bed and the South Carolina rays. Hey though – that was fun going to Patsy’s Sun Room with my friends for $2 a pop in Simpsonville, South Cackalacky (those where I’m from know what this means). Good times, not so good skin to show for it.

I was always able to relax in the tanning bed and was bummed when they upgraded to the quick-that-could-tan-you-in-less-than-ten-minutes beds. I enjoyed lying there with my own thoughts for a solid half hour, the radio on 107 WANS and a plug-in oscillating stand fan to help control the heat and humidity…yes, even inside the building. If this new serum works like the YouTube lady and the reviews say, I’ll be grateful!

Fast forward a couple of miles down the road, and the next song that comes on the radio makes me laugh and smile even harder. This is getting comical. A song I used to could not stand. I mean turn the radio as fast as I could. Tears for Fears – ‘Everybody Rules the World’. It just grated my ever loving nerves. Anyone remember Real Genius and the popcorn scene at the end? Yep. THAT one. Please tell me I’m not the only one who checked their dorm room closet for a secret elevator shaft when arriving at college?! True story.

Why is this funny? My husband REALLY likes that song. Like crank it up, sing it loud, loves that song. Don’t ask me why. I discovered this when we were dating. It was one of those things I chose to overlook, like he chose to overlook my pet anxiety CD’s for my little dog and the birthday cake I flew in from a Southern pet bakery for her {he even had it delivered to his business so it could be refrigerated until I was off of work – the ridicule he suffered for me and my Pawley!}.

dog pets beach

Ocean Isle Beach – Pawley and me – May 2000

He likes to pump up the volume when this song comes on, knowing how I can’t stand it. After all these years, it’s like an inside joke between us. And now I laugh.

I hear it and see his smile in my mind – so I crank it up and sing in an exaggerated way, thinking of his cute smirky grin and the looks we exchange whenever we randomly hear it. Come to think of it, me casting a scowl look about that song all these years probably aided in the advancement of my fine lines my new fancy serum promises to correct.

By this time I’m nearing my destination, and have realized the quick trip down memory lane has been provided by the local easy listening station, and I’m driving a minivan. Sobering thought. Who comes on next but Michael Jackson. I turn in to preschool with MJ softly asking me ‘Why? Why?’.

Why these particular songs in this order on this day? A song that at one time was special, then was sad to hear and now seems just plain silly, followed by a song I used to dislike and now I’ll listen to purely because my husband likes it and what he enjoys makes me smile. This all balanced in the middle with a healthy dose of age fighting when I am actually in the process of age embracing.

So I decided to talk back to the gloved one, giggled and said “I don’t know Michael, I’m asking why, too!” I guess it really is all just ‘Human Nature’. Ha! Can I get a witness for a song I actually want to hear?

Now, as much as I love music, I’m sure it’s no surprise I’m a sucker for ringtones. Of course he has one! Initially I was disappointed I couldn’t find our wedding dance song to use {disclaimer: Verizon, will you please consider a version of ‘By Your Side‘ with an option to start at the chorus?}.

Then, I found the perfect one.

My eyes light up at the lyrics. My heart skips a beat. Every time I hear this new-ish song, and usually this happens to be when we’re together, I squeal and say “This song reminds me of you! Turn it up!”.

Wedding Dance First Dance

First dance as Mr. and Mrs. – ‘By Your Side’ – April 6, 2002

And just at the moment I am pulling up the hill to pick up my son, one final song is played. The music isn’t coming from the radio, but from my phone. It’s him. And all of a sudden Ed Sheeran starts singing that sweet melody…and all I see is my husband’s face. I love it when he calls, usually once a day, just to say hi and see how my day is going. No other reason but to show he cares, and that’s one of those precious little things that’s actually a big thing to me.

And that, my friends, is saving the best for last.

What a Difference 10 Years Make

December 31, 2014. Celebrating New Year’s Eve with our own party of five. Having everyone home warms my heart. I’m perfectly happy watching the ball drop on TV, all in our jammies and everyone fighting to stay awake. Home is where my family is, and we were in the place where our daily lives are carried out. This is the place I make a conscious effort to be a safe haven for all who live here.

Even though one by one were drifting off to dreamland, we were all together and that’s what mattered. My husband was the first one out, crashed on the sofa. My youngest was next, right in Daddy’s arms. My older two kids and I were enjoying snuggling on the couch and watching New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, singing along with the artists, and chatting on Hangouts with my sister’s family celebrating at Disneyworld two timezones ahead. Minecraft, Madden mobile, and Twitter were occupying our devices. My daughter was bound and determined to see T. Swift perform. Bless her heart, she was out like a light about 15 minutes before Taylor came on. I even tried to unsuccessfully waken her. Thankful for DVR capabilities. No blank spaces here honey, we have you recorded!

Who’s left but my oldest child and me. My night owl. I love it when he and I have time just the two of us, which is a rarity. We get each other and can quietly sit together, do nothing or do lots, and be just fine. Content. I smiled thinking how different my New Year Eves were these days, much to my liking, from my younger years (which at the time were fun in a completely different way).

I thought “Wow, Ryder’s turning 10 this year. In 10 years, he’ll be almost 20. Todd and I will be hovering around 50. Wonder if we’ll all be celebrating together.” Then I chuckled inside realizing he will most likely NOT be around us when he’s 19 on New Year‘s Eve, although he’s always got a welcome spot in our home and hearts.

I’m turning 40 this year. I’m starting to look at things in decade chunks and embrace a lot of self reflection, which then prompted me that night to think back to what I was doing around New Years back in 2004. Let’s see. Todd and I had gone to South Carolina for Christmas and just returned home to Colorado. In our DINK (Dual Income No Kids) stage, we promised my younger sister and her husband that we’d spend every Christmas together, alternating who traveled each year. That never panned out but was great in theory!

DINK

DINKS

My stroll down memory lane quickly shifted to a day that used to haunt me. It’s amazing how it seemed so fresh. So not 10 years ago. I was sitting at the light waiting to turn on Morrison Road, just a few miles away from our house. Headed home to go pack for our SC Christmas trip the next day, I received news in the car that I never expected to hear.

“We got your test results back Mrs. Rodenburg, and I’m sorry to tell you this over the phone.” “Tell me.” “{lots of medical lingo}…Basically this means you are likely never going to be able to get pregnant, and in the event you do, it’s highly unlikely you’d ever be able to carry a pregnancy to term. Why don’t you think about it over the holidays and let us know what you want to do. I have some specialists you can call.”

No. No no no no no. This is not me. This is not happening. Breathe. BREATHE! Keep focused on the road. Knuckles white. Dear sweet Jesus NO!!!!!! Tears. Steam. Cloudy eyes. Breathe. Stinging tears. Plugged nose. Breathe. In and out. Heart pounding. Panic attack. Gripped steering wheel. After I manage to pull over to the side of the road, I called my sister. The second she answered, I screamed. I could barely get the words out. It’s a wonder Kristin was able to even understand me. “Where are you. Where ARE you? Is Todd with you? I’m calling him right now. Go straight home and I’ll tell him to meet you there. I love you.”

Two weeks before, I had gone to the hospital for testing. Poking. Prodding. Things you never anticipate having to experience. My dear friend Misty took me to that appointment and we prayed over my belly that answers would be discovered and miracles would happen. She cried with me and for me. She held me and held me together. I was crumbling inside.

Two years of hoping. Praying. Calculating. Months of temping. Reading. Exercising. Yelling through tears at my sweet husband (and thankful for his grace through those times) that this is all our fault for not trying sooner. We were trying to wait for the perfect time to start a family and now look at what’s happening! Hopping on the wild ride of an emotional roller coaster and knowing more about how amazing our bodies work than I ever dreamed possible to know. Sitting in church on Mother’s Day fighting back tears when all the Moms were asked to stand in recognition and receive beautiful roses on the way out. Such a tender gesture that tormented me. I so badly wanted to stand. Maybe next year. A year goes by. Surely next year. Still seated. Answering those questions “Just when are you going to have a baby?” “What are you waiting for?” Hearing “Oh be so thankful you aren’t pregnant right now. My head stays in the toilet I have such bad morning sickness.” What I would have given to have my days filled with morning sickness if it meant I was pregnant!

“Trust Me.” One of the single handful of times in my life I have audibly heard His voice. I was lying on my couch with half my body over the armrest. Alone. Spent. Exhausted. Mourning what I thought may never happen. I will never forget the moment, the place, the sound, the feeling. Peace. Instant peace. Tears. “OK, I trust You.” I never doubted from that moment forward.
For This Child I Prayed

1 Samuel 1:27

10 years ago on New Years morning I woke up and temped out of habit. Todd was still asleep. So was my little dog. Another high. What? Wait. Really?! I knew instantly what that meant. I hopped in the car and drove to the closest grocery store. I called my sister on the way. No one was on the road. The sun was just rising.

Symbolic now, it was the dawn of a new day, a new year, a new pregnancy. That line was so faint. I squinted, but there were two. I was seeing double in the best possible way! I squealed and woke Todd up asking if he saw two lines. He was so groggy he didn’t even know what he was looking at or what in the world I was saying. I took four more tests over the next three days just to keep seeing the lines!

At our initial doctor’s appointment, the nurse (incidentally the same one who delivered the awful news over the phone to me) was trying to be so reserved. She honestly didn’t think we’d hear a heartbeat. I insisted on listening. I felt like she didn’t even want to look at me in the eyes. She saw my twinkle and probably noticed me practically skipping in to the OB’s office. I asked Todd to get a voice recorder and bring it (smartphones were non-existent at the time). He hit record with one hand and held mine with his other one as she put the doppler on my belly.

There it was. Like a thundering group of galloping horses. Our baby’s heartbeat. I have never cried happier tears! Todd and I prayed before every appointment, and held hands after every appointment the second the doctors left the room, giving thanks for His miracle. There were plenty of those moments as I was labeled high risk and constantly monitored throughout the pregnancy. 10 years ago on New Years Day 2005, a Mom was in the making.

Mothers Day 2006

My first Mothers Day, May 2006

Before my son was born and daily since, I have prayed for God to draw him close and use him in mighty ways for His glory. I realize now he has already been used in my life for His good.
  • he was the catalyst in restoring a broken relationship with my Dad
  • he was the facilitator in me discovering my strength as a Mom and as his advocate through early years of therapy
  • his conception and delivery both served as reminders in mighty ways that I am not in control, and when I try to control things the outcomes aren’t necessarily what would have been best (hard pill for me to swallow!)
  • he has expanded my heart for forgiveness. Forgiveness for people who don’t know how to respond or what to say to someone in certain circumstances (bless that nurse’s heart).
  • he has given me a greater compassion for others in acknowledging those walking along difficult roads and how sometimes words aren’t the fix all to a situation. He has tempered my tongue.
  • he has filled all the little wholes poked in my heart from every negative test, every curt comment, every sting when a pregnancy was announced and I so wanted it to be me, every tear shed
  • he has brought sweet joyous confirmation and winks from God (the first time I felt him kick was when I was singing worship in church)

So this year I am honored to say I rang in the New Year with my miracle baby, the child who made me a Mom, and who has had my heart wrapped around his very being since before I knew who he was. I am learning to let go better than I used to, settling into our new normal of 3rd grade headed-towards-tween behavior, only high fives in public and no more hugs at school and certainly not at football. Requests of “please don’t embarrass me on the field trip Mom, but I’m so glad you’re going to be there” are more current these days.

I couldn’t be more proud of who he is, and that I have the privilege being his Mom. I can’t believe in the next 10 years, he’ll probably be in college and on his own. The old adage don’t blink is true. From blinking through frantic tears to happy ones and now those of contentment, 10 years have flown by.

New Years Eve

New Years Eve 2014

I’m curious…what has been one of your memorable New Years?
Welcome Home

Welcome Home, Doll

The engine roars as our plane makes its final descent…my eyes are closed…”Thank you, Jesus, for a safe flight.” My air travels always begin with a prayer my nearly-92 year old Grandmother prayed over me when I had moved to Denver 17 years ago.

I had come back for a Clemson game, and it was time for me to return to Colorado. She hugged and kissed me goodbye as I was leaving for the airport, and she prayed for “the pilot to have steady hands and a clear mind”.

Ever since, I pray her words when the plane takes off. Every.single.time. I admit I sometimes add on to that for all our luggage to make it on the plane, especially on connecting flights. Upon landing, a prayer of thanksgiving is given, grateful that we’ve arrived safely.

Grandma Long

Visiting Grandma Long

The wheels on the jet that day were just about to touch down. I could feel the bump bump bump with anticipation. My older two children threw their hands up in the air like we’re on a roller coaster and squeal “wheeee!”.

Thank goodness they know how to buckle their seat belts tight as I was using my arm to hold back my youngest, who was excited to now have his very own seat and insisted on copying his brother and sister’s every move. They’ve all been counting the days until we were there. It’s always a highlight of our Summer. We were all smiling!

All of a sudden I hear “Welcome home, doll.” I could hear his voice. Those were always the first words my Dad would greet me with at the airport when I’d fly back to South Carolina. Always.

It’s still so strange for me to land at GSP and not see him. I still tear up, expecting him to be there. The last picture I have with him is at the airport when I flew back to Colorado after our family beach trip in July 2012. He died 6 weeks later.

Me and Dad last pic

Our last picture…me & Dad

This was my third time back since his passing. Every time, it’s like the bandaids are ripped right off again. I can’t help but cry. I do believe since I live so far away and am removed from the day to day of being “right in” where he was, that my grief hasn’t been totally dealt with.

On the one hand, it hasn’t even been two years. On the other, it feels like forever. Thankful for plenty of smiles to help dry those tears in remembering all the special times my husband, kids, and I have had there, and will continue to make when we visit.

Despite sadness welling up inside because Dad wouldn’t be there, I was filled with joy in anticipation of seeing my younger sister, her family, and my Mom there to greet us that day. Time spent with them is always treasured and full of fun, and I was so excited to soak them in along with the rest of my family we’d be visiting!

Mom and kids airport.jpg

My Mom, my children & my nephew upon our arrival

Now I realize people either loathe or appreciate humidity. Personally I’m a fan as one instantly looks at least 5 years younger when enveloped in it, plus we all save room in the suitcase with no need to pack lotion. My sweet husband is the opposite and feels suffocated by it, bless his heart!

In all sincerity, one of my favorite moments each time I deplane at GSP is when I feel the humidity literally smack me in the face. I absolutely love it. It means I’m home.

What do you treasure most about where you’re originally from?

A Missed James Taylor Concert = A Blog Is Born!

Concert tickets. Something that seems so trivial, yet something important to me. Music has always resonated with me across a variety of genres. Emotion. Memories. Energy.

One of my all time favorite artists…James Taylor…is playing not 5 miles away from my house right now. A part of me wants to throw caution to the wind and drive to Red Rocks Amphitheater to try and hear him sing even if only from the parking lot. Those lyrics…those songs…they have been a constant in my life for over two decades.

I started listening to the original “JT” in high school. He, the Eagles, and Stevie Nicks were my favorites. I remember my Mom gifting me two Eagles tapes the day my parents gave me an early high school graduation present, a white Mazda RX7. I played those over and over and just drove. Freedom!

At Clemson, I used to take naps during the day (more often than I should) and at night fall asleep to James Taylor’s Greatest Hits. My roommates will even tell you hearing his songs reminds them of me. Those soothing sounds helped lull me away to a place where I felt safe. Asleep. College was some of the most memorable years of my life in both wonderful and horrible ways. I would always rest easy though, listening to his music.

Bid Day

ADPi Bid Day, Clemson 1993

My Mom took me to his concert 20 years ago. She knew then the importance of music to me. I’ve since worn out a tape and two CD’s of the same album. Music relates.

After moving to Colorado, when I would get so homesick for South Carolina, those songs would bring tears to my eyes. Although the tears would fall, I couldn’t turn it off. I’ve taught myself lots of music by ear on the piano…long after the years of lessons as a young girl passed. Sometimes I just play it to hear the notes when I’m by myself. Although I have the Greatest Hits piano book, when I play I most often tickle the keys by memory. Music soothes.

I remember one of my dearest college friends dancing with her Dad on her wedding day to Fire and Rain. She told me he had always sang that to her through the years. I smiled with misty eyes watching them so beautifully glide across the floor and imagined her as a child dancing on her daddy’s toes, much like I did with my Dad when I was young. In that moment that’s probably how he saw her, too. Every time I hear that song, I think of their amazing relationship. Music inspires.

When I married, our guests received CD’s filled with our favorite songs as wedding favors. He was one of the first on my list of songs as well as on our wedding highlight video. Music delights. 

Wedding CD

Wedding Favor CD, April 2002

When our babies were born, I always played music in their rooms to help them drift off to sleep. Beautiful lullabies, hymns, sometimes even Baby Elvis, and of course, James Taylor. I especially loved rocking them and singing Sweet Baby James, You’ve Got A Friend, and Carolina In My Mind. As they grew, I danced with them around the family room to How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You). Music connects.

Imagine my excitement when ringtones arrived! My Mom and younger sister were affectionally given Boogie Shoes. So appropriate and vibrant for them. They have a zest for life! I smiled every time they called. My Dad and my older sister rang Carolina in My Mind. Equally appropriate and welcoming for them. They remind me of an oak tree, so strong and steady! I smiled every time they called. Now when I hear the song, I often cry. My Dad passed away a year and a half ago. I had to take the ringtone off as when my sister called, there were times for an instant I thought it was him. It used to be a sobbing, can’t control it, ugly cry. Now it’s more of a healing one. Music speaks.

Every night after prayers and high-low points, I sing to my children. They have their two favorites. One night my little girl asked “Mama one more?” and I turned to James Taylor. Although my a capella voice sounds nothing like that of a recording artist, to my children it is peaceful and calming. I love that they ask me to sing and to them, it’s comforting. That night I sang Carolina In My Mind. She started to cry. I asked why, and she said it reminded her of my Dad. In our minds, Carolina is family. It’s my heritage, my roots. It’s my children’s second home. We cried together, talking about life, death, family, and memories. We held each other. Me and my 7 year old. Music heals.

So tonight, I will sit on my back deck and hope to hear a little sound. Although with his soft tones, I am not expecting it to reach my ears from even those few miles away. That’s okay, because I have the true music inside. I can hear it whenever I choose…

Litchfield Beach, July 2011

Litchfield Beach, July 2011

I am grateful the Good Lord blessed us with musical ability, some more than others 😉 Whether praising Him, softly singing bedtime songs to my children, or just driving and hearing “my music” now on the easy listening channel while rockin’ out in a minivan, I am amazed at how something can so deeply move me.

What speaks to you? Please do share in the comments.