Thursday, March 31, 2011

Revealing....

As most know, I'm a member of our church's praise and worship team.

Its pretty much been awesome (:

Last year, I made a promise that this blog would be honest, vulnerable, and that I would post things that make me uncomfortable.

So, once a week, or so, I will post some our praise and worship team singing.

Some will be me leading worship, some will be someone else...Some will be songs written by me, some will be written by our worship pastor, and some will be Christian radio songs.

Doing this, makes me feel very uncomfortable, indeed. For one, we are very short on members of our praise and worship team. Our worship pastor plays the bass and keyboard during most sets!

We only have two girls, with the ability to sing harmonies, who provide back ground vocals....

We have one drummer, mainly, but we do have another that is able to sub when he is needed. AND, we don't have a "lead guitar", though we do have an amazing guitarist.

Plus, I'm completely aware that my singing voice is...well..ordinary! I'm okay with that! But, whenever people hear that I "led worship Sunday morning", they automatically assume that I could win American Idol.

Oh, not the case at all! That is why I consider it SO much of a blessing, that God has put me in this place.

And, actually, I sort of feel good, knowing that the congregation won't really be focusing on the spectacular-ness of a voice, or even the fact that our team doesn't put on a "perfect concert performance" and will instead be focusing on the ONE who loves us and is SO deserving of our praise and worship.

So, the first song is the first song I wrote. Its a favorite of mine...such rushing emotions....and such a plea (use me) that most of us shy away from asking GOD.

I think most of the time, we think that God doesn't want to use us, because we're not holy enough, spiritual enough, talented enough, whatever.

But that isn't true! Look at me...I'm not a musician, nor do I have the "best" singing voice! But God is using me to write songs, for him! Look at Moses. He was a murderer! And Jonah...he didn't even want to be used! And King David....a murder and an adulterer, but so beloved by HIM.

SO, here is the song...


It's called, USE ME

I'll post the lyrics below.

Usually, I lead this song. I love all the freedoms I'm allowed to have with this song. But, this time, Pastor Robby led it, and I was very pleased with the different sound it took on.



Use Me (A)

Alicia Stephens

1
5
You are the wind in the trees the current that drives the open seas
6m
4
You are the whisper in the night, a constant song in my life. (repeat)

Pre: 1
5
Here I am, a heart after yours oh God
6m
4
Break me, remake me.

1
5
6m
4
And use me (use me), oh use me (use me) in perfect love, Lord use me
1
5
6m
4
Use me (use me), oh use me (use me) in awesome truth use me.

1
5
V2: You are the mountain moving one, Awe inspiring, magnificent love
6m
4
You are my shield, my hope, my might, Oh perfect one, giver of life

6m

4

I-give-myself-to-you oh Lord, all of me, yes all of me
1
5/7
6m
4
I want to lose myself in you, all of me, yes all of me (repeat)
1
5/7
6m
4
I want to give myself to you, all of me, yes all of me. (end)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vent, extra long

I am so gosh darn sick of people telling me that Isabela being home with me all day is NOT healthy.


Really? Really?


Especially people in my own family. Not that they are people who I admire as parents, but thats a whole other story.


Just in case anyone has forgotten, Isabela turns 2 in April. Thats right folks! Two.And her whole life, she has been with her stay at home mommy. Its what she knows.Its how she thrives. It is the BEST thing for HER.


Now, some of these people are well meaning, probably.

What they mean to say is:


"You should start having play dates with other kids for her, " or

" She's at the age where socialization with other kids is a lot of fun for her" or

"Its healthy for kids to learn how to socialize with each other."


All those statements above, agree with. Here is what I disagree with:


" You always look so tired. Staying home with your child isn't good for you."

" You should start her in daycare. She needs to learn how to be away from you, and you need to start doing more things for yourself."

"You should go back to work full time. Your daughter is too clingy, too shy, and staying at home with only you and her is hindering her from developing an outgoing personality."

"Your daughter is so shy. It must be because you stay at home with her. You should take her to daycare so that she will learn how to be more independent and grow out of her shyness."


Sounds a little crazy, eh?


Well these are ALL things that were said to me by family members and by a member of our church. (who barely even knows us or my daughter!)

I am always very polite in my responses to people I don't know well. In my family's case, I am not as polite, but I'm also still respectful.


BUT,


this is my blog and I reserve the right to vent on it, if need be.


First of all,


I am tired. Tired in the morning when I wake up. Tired at night when I go to sleep. Tired at naptime, as I'm cleaning, attempting to exercise, and trying to start dinner.


I'm TIRED. I know this, maaaaan!


But, do you know what that means? It means I'm a stinkin good parent! All good parents are physically tired. Know why? Because, it is exhausting giving 100 percent of yourself to your child.


Your lovely child, who could care less if your sick, if your back hurts, or if your tired from staying up with them all night.


Its tiring being a good parent!


So, maybe I happen to look tired everytime I see you. Or maybe...I'm just getting old. But, I do know this. My tiredness is nothing compared to the fullfillment I have knowing that I give everything for the good of my family.


And, to say that its not good for me to be a stay at home mom? Well, maybe it wasn't good for you to be a stay at home mom. No judgement there. We all do what we need to do to be the best parents we can be.


But, its pretty damn good for me. I LOVE it!


And even though being a stay at home mom is NOT glorious, adrenaline rushing, or sexy ( well, depends on the day, eh?)....


And, even though its one of the MOST selfless,sacrificial things you choose to do...( oh please don't get me started on people who say that sahm's don't have any drive, urghhh),


And, even though, its intensely lonely at times....I love it.


Not only that, its the best thing for my family, right now.


And, as a stay at home mom, I'd have to be pretty rich, or pretty overwhelmed to send my not yet 2 yr old to daycare. First of all, I can't afford it. Part time daycare can be as much as 800 a month. In home babysitting is already around 10 dollars an hour! And in home, full time childcare, can start off at around 150 a week.


Seriously, one of the reasons why I can stay at home, is because we can afford it , IF we stick to a very strict budget. Secondly, children THRIVE in their parent's care. Yes, once a child is ready, play dates are great! We love love love playdates! But please don't give me the bs that my little girl will thrive in a daycare setting, better than she would at home with me. Thats so stupid, it makes me laugh!


Lastly, my daugher is shy! Why is anyone surprised! I was a shy kid, her dad was a shy kid...I can still be shy sometimes. If I sent her to daycare, she'd adapt, and eventually be fine. But she'd still be shy or have shy tendencies. Its okay, because its who she is.


Its my job, as her parent, to nurture her, and give her the confidence to grow out of her shyness one day ( as much as she can). I refuse to let someone else spend 8 hours a day with my children, if I have the ability to do it myself.


And, I'm not knocking down people who use daycares or nannies, or whatever. That works for you, and your family, and I know you made sure you picked out a damn good provider.


But for me, well, I want to be the one around my children for these first few years. With my husband in the military, well....things aren't always constant. We are moving now, and who knows how many more times we could move in the next 8 years. Hopefully one or two more times.


Also, we travel a lot to see our families. In the next 8 years, we may live in 3 different houses. My husband could go to Iraq....who knows where he could go?


So many changes... So little consistency in a military life.


And, so, I want to be the constant in my family.


Sure, its not glamourous. It's not notable, really. I won't win any awards or go on any cool work trips. I won't be recognized in front of my shop for anything great I did, or get a promotion , either. I will most likely feel under appreciated by my husband and kids.


But I will still be there.

The constant. The one who kisses scraped knees and cut fingers.

The one who stays up all night with a sick tot, who can't sleep without lots of lovin and snuggles.

The one who has to figure out how to take daddy's place ( oh how impossible!) when he goes on long trips or deploys again.

The one who gets to nurse tiny nurslings, forging a sweet trusting bond , from day one.

The one who sees every single milestone, as soon as it happens.

The one who cleans, and cleans, and cleans....and cooks everyones favorites meals.

The one who teaches silly songs, ABCs, numbers, colors, shapes.....

and so much more.


Yep, thats me. The constant.


When everything else is changing and out of control, mom is always going to be there.

This, my friends, is my job. Its part of an unwritten job description that is forever changing. The go getter girl that I am just figures that I can handle it.

So, whether YOU approve or not, trust me when I say....


I may be tired. But I'm lucky. I'm damn lucky.


I am doing exactly what I want to be doing.





Are you?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Let it go

I wonder what relationships would be like without the expectation of perfectionism.

Most of us say that we don't expect our loved ones to be perfect, but only a few of us are telling the truth.

Online, like on Facebook, we are constantly praising our love ones....raising them up on a pedestal before our friends and family. And, others are also doing it.

I wonder what type of social implications this has?

A lot of people in relationships expect their loved one to be able to make them happy. In America, we are all happiness-orientated anyway, so this isn't much of a surprise.

Sometimes, when our loved one fails to consistently make us happy, the relationship is severed, a divorce happens, and a family is broken.

What if...

we didn't rely on our spouses to be perfect? What if we expected them to mess up, to make us exasperated, and to even become a little boring?

What if....

instead of having such high expectations for our partners, we had high expectations for ourselves?

Like...

Holding ourselves to a higher standard of loving and giving?

I think it was in the book, Eat, Pray, Love, where I read a response to the authors research. ( I hope I'm not wrong)

A primitive woman, living in modern times, in an old world village, said, "He's JUST a man."

He's just a man.


Say that out loud. Think about it.


That man ( or woman) is just that. He or she is no supernatural being blessed with supernatural powers. He or she, as "perfect" as he or she is, is blessed with their own faults and imperfections.


When my husband did his last tour in Iraq, I missed him SO very much.
I missed his extremely annoying, very random, snoring. I missed his stupid shoes and clothes on the floor. I missed him interrupting my sentences.

All the above are things that drive me crazy. But when he was gone...I actully missed them. And when he came back, I let it go. Stopped arguing so much about his messiness.

Because, ultimately, I love him, and I want all of him. Imperfections included.

When Chris was in Iraq, he dodged death. Yes, this is true. He left his trailer in the middle of the night to walk to the latrine. He had to walk quite a bit to get to it. While he was gone, his trailer was hit by mortar file and his roommate was severly injured, and eventually medically discharged due to loss of his limbs.

I learned this after he returned, because he kept if from me while he was there.

Everytime I think about it...I get goose bumps.

Some of us say we have no regrets. I don't believe you. Because if Chris died then, I would have so many regrets. I would regret my bossiness. My constant drive for perfection and cleanliness. I would regret all our petty arguements. And so much more.

Does your love one seem to let you down a lot? I am in no way referring to big things, like cheating, or lying constantly. I mean those little things that create huge arguements.

Let it go...Seriously. If your arguing because he's a messy...well, stop wasting your breath. Because his clothes will never make it to the hamper, and his keys, cell phone and other random junk will never make it to their designated spot. Take a deep breath....and use your talent as the "clean one" to put it away. Treasure it.....cuz , my friends, we don't live forever. You'll miss picking up after him or her one day.

You WILL miss being able to care for your partner one day. Trust me.

He's just a man.

maybe those older women, living in primitive villages, have got it right. No one is spotless. No one is perfect. We are all just ourselves.

My grandmother is leaving for Portland in 3 weeks. Because I love her, I am so happy and excited for this new journey. I'm excited and hopeful that my cousins will get to know the grandma that I know and had the blessing of growing up with.

But I'm also plagued with regrets. For not calling enough the past 4 years. For not visiting nearly enough.

I'm so disappointed in the granddaughter I've been.

And, so, my grandmother will leave this tiny little town and find happiness far away, among a large bunch of family who loves her just as fiercly as we do here.

What a blessing. And now, I am honored and blessed to spend the next few weeks with her.

Why are grandmas so incredibly wise?

While helping my grandma separate her belongings, she said, " This is all my junk. No one wants me to keep it. It doesn't really mean much to you. But its mine. Its all my own junk."

Some of the "junk" is little crafts made by her granddaughters. A birdhouse made by her late husband and my grandpa, Papa John. A picture of Papa John, and pictures of her family. Other little knick knacks. Her "junk."

My grandma knows that her sentimental things only matter to her. And maybe, somehow thats just it.

My high expectations, really only matter to me. No one else in the entire world really cares about my high standards, not the way that I do. So instead of trying to keep it all,

Instead of trying to enforce every single standard that matters to me....I need to just pick a few.

We need to just pick a few. The special ones. The really important ones. The ones we absolutely need to live and love freely. We'll pick through all our "junk" and keep only what is special and dear to us.

The rest....we'll let it go.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Confessing my insecurities

disclaimer: I stole the use of pretties and pretty from my sister, Aurelia. Thanks sis. Also, this blog is just a reflection of my own insecurities and is in no way, intended to put down the people who love shopping, buying pretty things, and making themselves pretty, as I fall into all those categories as well. This is intended for people like me, who have to budget every single thing, who can barely scrape money into savings every paycheck, and who are letting, yes letting, our vanity, stand in the way of being our best person.


I've been blogging. alot.
The old fashioned way...yes, using a pen and paper! I suppose this is really called journaling

Anyhow, its been pretty awesome, because I don't feel censored in any way. Plus, there's just something about pen and paper that feels so much better than typing ( until my fingers get tired).

Lately, I've really been longing to feel pretty. Ok...I realize I am not horrendous looking. I realize that some of you may even think I already am pretty. Thank you! But, I don't really mean that I think I'm ugly, or not pretty, or horrendous.

The problem is....I feel ugly, not pretty, and horrendous!

Here in Iowa...its still winter. Its depressing. I seriously miss the sun. To make things worse, all around me, in the stores are spring items. SPRING! Bright colorful shirts, fun flirty flowery dresses, scarves with sweet birds embroidered on them...etc.

Oh, how I long to wear spring! However...its really just too cold outside to even bother. That's just part of the problem though. Because, even if it was warm outside, I wouldn't be buying anything. With the loss we are taking on our house, I cannot justify spending absolutely anything on me, at all.

I love staying at home with Isabela. Love it.

But, I feel so frumpy all the time.
So tired ( yeah, baby girl has only slept through the night 4 times since she's been born! AH!).
So at a loss at what do to with my hair.
I feel so out of style.
Everywhere, all around me, people are coming and going, and they look fantastic.
And then, here I am, feeling frumpy, not so pretty, and even...( dun, dun dun) insecure?

Wow, now that is a confession! I hate feeling insecure. Being insecure is dangerous, you know. It brings out the absolute worst in people. It forces you to isolate....creates a funk that is hard to get out of.

SO, this is NOT ok with me. I'm tired of feeling like a frumpy 3o year old housewife.

Isn't there more to life than this?

Seriously, isn't there more to life than being obsessed with all the pretties and "I have to have this or that,?"

Of course there is.

Deep down inside, we all know this. How do I change this..."frumpy attitude", this "not satisfied with myself feeling"....this "I want to feel pretty sort of thing?"

I came to the conclusion that the only way to fight it would be to focus more on things that are really important than my own vanity issues. The things that I am already passionate about.

The things that matter more to me that a new outfit, timeless cardigan, or fabulous scarf.

Missions. Instead of taking money from our tax refund to give myself a prize, well...I tithed it all to missions.

Voices of the Martyrs. A mission very deep to my heart and one that is changing my entire view on Christianity, religion, and the love of Christ. Becoming even more involved with their organization.

Reading. Reading to learn.

To stop looking at the sites, stores, blogs, that do nothing but make me want to have all the things I cannot have.

The above are just some examples. But....its truly working.

Do you ever feel the same way that I do?
Like you just can't keep up with the world around you?
Like you can't compare?
Like the old things you already have aren't good enough?
Like your just not showing the pretty you all the time?

Take heart, my dear friends.
And remember, that the inner beauty of your heart is so much more important than your display. And being pretty is really only temporary. And, actually, its quite boring, after a while.

No one wants to read about someone else's perfect life. Or watch a movie about another person's perfect life. Its boring and may come across as condescending.

If you were to write a best selling book about your life, you would include more uglies than pretties. Otherwise, no one would want to read it, but most importantly, no one could relate to it!In fact, your pretty life, just became very ugly!

Ask yourself, What will you be known for when you pass away?
Will it be for your fashion style?
Your perfectly decorated home?
Your closet full of clothing and shoes?
The car you drive?
Etc?

Yes, you get it, right? Well, if your perfectly ok with being known for only that, then more power to you!

However, I suspect otherwise. That most people, like me, want to be remembered for SOMETHING bigger.

I want people to remember things about me that can't be summarized in words.
I want to be remembered for changing ( REALLY changing) a life, or two. Maybe even more.
I want to be remembered for my love for people.
I want to be remembered as a giver.
I want to be remembered for an inner beauty that far outweighs my outer self.
I want to be remembered as a person who is willing to sacrifice her life for others.

Do you?

It starts now! Start now! Put away all your vices, your distractions, and stop focusing on your making you and your life pretty!

I know its hard. Trust me, I do!

Write your own story. Wear your heart on your sleeve and be completely honest about your mistakes and past transgressions. Remove all the veils of fear, insecurity, and vanity. Give of yourself than to yourself. Serve your family. Love the human race.

Instead of buying beautiful things, DO beautiful things. And never worry about being beautiful. Because all the right people think you are, anyway!

Ah...the musings of the poor, the rich would say! True!

I would like to share some scripture. I always "got" it....but NOW, I REALLY get it.

"I'll say it again--it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!" Matthew 19:24 NLT


Lastly, here is a favorite quote of mine that so wonderfully puts things in the RIGHT perspective. Quoted by Sabina Wurmbrand ( A christian lady, wife to Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned, tortured, beaten, and sent to a hard labor camp, all for being Christian in a Communist country):

"Perhaps dear sisters, you know how we are the women, we always have the impression that we do not have enough clothes, and we absolutely need a new dress and we are ready to quarrel and to fight, “I need it, absolutely “. Perhaps, when your heart is so unhappy about your new dress, which you need, remember your sisters, in rags, hungry, beaten, put to shame by the Communists. Pray for them and praying for them thank God for all you have. And learning to thank God your heart will be blessed and will be happy and you will be a blessing to those around you. "