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Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Truth About Romance

Today I want to address an open letter (that means everyone can read it) to the three girls that mean more to me than my own life.  Lady and ZeeZee, you are becoming young women.  Blondie, you are a bit young for this, but I want you to pay attention too.  You shouldn't be having boyfriends for many years yet, but you are starting to imagine what it would be like.  I want to make sure you know the truth.

First I want all three of you to know- you are beautiful.  I know me telling you that is like hearing it from your mom.  Inside you’re rolling your eyes and thinking “whatever Jana, you have to say that because we’re family.”  No, you really are beautiful.  Seeing you brightens my day, and when I have trouble sleeping at night, I picture your smiles.  You are the happiest, brightest part of my life.  If you know you’re beautiful, your life will be much better.  You don’t need someone to complete you, and you don’t need someone to make you happy.  I promise you if you can’t be happy by yourself, no one else will ever make you happy.

At your age, you are getting less concerned with what I think and more concerned with what boys think.  You want to know you can be loved the way you see your parents love each other, and the answer is yes you can, and you will be-in time.  Now that you’re teenagers I’m starting to get scared that you won’t understand what real love is.  The books, the movies, the pictures on the internet, they’re all lying to you, my little loves.  If you expect life to be like the movies you see, you may be in for a lifetime of disappointment.  Love is not some instantaneous, magical moment.  No no dears, the truth is a million times better than the movies.

First of all, Lady, you recently told me that boys your age are weird and gross.  Yes dear, they are.  But you have a lot of growing up to do yourself.  When the boys stop being so gross (around the time you get home from serving a mission ;) you will be a lot better prepared for a relationship.  One of the first lies you’ve been told about love is that it only happens once.  I used to believe that.  I thought if ever anyone expressed interest in me I needed to snag him fast, because if I lost that first one I was doomed for eternity.  I’m here now to say you will probably fall in love more than once.  Every time will be different and valuable, but don’t think that any relationship is the last chance you have.  There are more wonderful experiences ahead of you three than you can possibly imagine at this point.

I see so many pictures like this on the internet. 
Pic 3
The truth is, when you start dating, sometimes even the very best man will say things that hurt your feelings.  Sometimes he’ll be a dork and say something without thinking.  And if we’re being honest here, girls tend to get hurt over dumb stuff sometimes.  I remember being very upset with my boyfriend’s insensitivity while he was sitting there trying to figure out what was going on.  I guarantee this will happen to you.  Anyone you date will think differently than you, and understanding one another will take patience and effort.  Please don’t drop someone the first time they say something you don’t like.

This is another big cause of contention. 
Pic 2
Girls, he’s not a mind reader.  You need to tell him what you want.  If you’re crying and he asks what’s wrong and you say “nothing, I’m fine.”  He is going to think you want him to pretend everything is fine.  How would you like your mom or I to get mad at you for not doing things we never told you to do?  It’s not fair to hold him to expectations you didn’t tell him.  Girls, please, be classier than that.

This one is really important to me. 
Pic 8
Darlings, jealousy is not cute.  Jealousy is not proof that he loves you, and it is not proof that you’re valuable to him.  Jealousy is him thinking he owns you.  If your guy has jealousy issues, run the other way as fast as your two feet can take you.  If in the future you date someone with this problem, call me and I will leave work or whatever I’m doing to come get you.  Stay away from jealous guys, they will never treat you as a person-only as another one of their “things.”  There are some men you really should avoid like the plague, but trust me, I'll make sure you can spot them from a mile off long before your first date.

Right now, you are starting to have visions of that perfect man.   The movies you watch and the books you read tell you he should always know the right thing to say, should stick with the relationship no matter how you treat him, and make everything better.  When you do find that someone, I’m telling you right now, he will be human.  He will make mistakes and often he won’t know what to say.  He won’t be able to make your problems go away, but being around him will make them easier to handle.  The important thing is-even when he makes mistakes you will still know he cares about you.  The joy of relationships is in overcoming things together.  Yes, he needs to know you are a princess and you should be treated like one, but never forget that he’s a prince.  Expect respect, but make sure you give it too.

I have one last thought, so stay with me for one more paragraph.  All your lives you’ve been told that 16 is the magical age of dating.  I want you to know that I didn’t go on a single date when I was 16.  I went on my first date when I was 19, and I was 20 before anyone ever asked me out.  If no boys ask you out, it is not a reflection on you.  It isn’t even a reflection on them, it’s just the way life goes sometimes.  I promise you all those romantic dreams you are storing up in your hearts will come true, even if you have to wait for them.  This is something well worth waiting for.  In the mean time, don’t worry.  Become your best, happiest self and draw close to the Lord.  Your teen and young single adult years should be some of the most testimony-building years of your life.  Trust God and learn to love yourself-this relationship thing is something you should be able to look forward to for many years yet.

All my love,
Your beloved Aunt Jana.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Another New Song

Soon I'll post about new group love and rave about Only Boys Aloud, but for now I want to talk about this amazing and innovative song.

This song is from the musical Chess, which I have no desire to see-the main character has to pick between his wife and his girlfriend in the second half and the whole concept just doesn't work for me.

That being said, this song is about the main character, Anatoly, and his decision to defect from Russia during the Cold War.  When the press got wind of it they asked why he was leaving his country and he says that his country is far more than the political strife of nations.  Russia is not a place, it's a state of being, and he will always be Russian.

                                                                              No man, no madness

                                                                     Though their sad power may prevail
Can possess, conquer, my country's heart
They rise to fail
She is eternal
Long before nations' lines were drawn
When no flags flew, when no armies stood
My land was born

And you ask me why I love her
Through wars, death and despair
She is the constant, we who don't care
And you wonder will I leave her - but how?
I cross over borders but I'm still there now

How can I leave her?
Where would I start?
Let man's petty nations tear themselves apart
My land's only borders lie around my heart

Josh Groban fangirl that I am, I'm putting his version first.
This next version is from the Welsh Choir Only Men Aloud.  I like the Welsh language, but don't find it any more beautiful than any other translation of this song.  What I do like is that these men from a historically oppressed region are singing this in their native language-that adds some power.  I also love the choice to split the words among four soloists-it seems more moving to me that way.
And finally (you did want all three versions, didn't you?) here is a boys chorus (ages 14-19) singing the exact same Welsh translation.  While it lacks the nuance of the older performers, I think there's a special honesty to it that sets it apart.

I really like the concept discussed in the song-that nationality is more than location.  I know I am American.  To me that means being independent, stubborn, optimistic about the future, and willing to argue my point. I'm also from the southwest, which I think means I'm more honest, less enamored of "fancy" things-houses, cars, clothes, what have you, and that I'm close to my roots-case in point the family ranch.  That's not to say that every American fits this, or that every self-proclaimed cowgirl does either.  I'm just saying that when I travel the world I'm going to take America with me and for me that's what it will look like.

So, faithful readers-all two of you-what does your nationality mean to you?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

New Song Love

Okay the title's a misnomer because the song came out in 2001, but somehow I missed it.  This is Lullaby for a Stormy Night by Vienna Tang and every time I hear it I love it a little more.

I first fell in love with the soft, uncomplicated piano accompaniment and desire to play this song.  Then I fell in love with the premise-lullabies are the type of music I would study for the rest of my life if I could.  Then I fell in love with the message of the song.

It was hard at first for me to imagine myself in the child's place because I love thunderstorms; I sit on my porch and watch them all night long given half a chance.  But then I realized this isn't just about thunderstorms, it's about all life's trials, and I'd like to break it down a little.

little child, be not afraid
though rain pounds harshly against the glass
like an unwanted stranger, there is no danger
I am here tonight

How often are our fears unfounded?  I know I frequently wake up in terror from nightmares of things that NEVER REALLY HAPPENED.  Okay, sure, maybe someday my precious child will get in a car accident and die, but at that moment I am losing sleep over fear for a child safely tucked in their bed.

little child, be not afraid
though thunder explodes and lightning flash
illuminates your tear-stained face
I am here tonight

This is my favorite message of this song-that fear is okay.  Whether it's founded or not, it is natural for us to be afraid and we can be helped through these challenges.

and someday you'll know
that nature is so
the same rain that draws you near me
falls on rivers and land
on forests and sand
makes the beautiful world that you'll see
in the morning

Trials-the storms in our lives-they are no fun, but from a desert dwelling perspectives these thunderstorms are our lifeblood.  I've lived in agricultural areas and seen fear as the droughts have dragged on, I've seen increasingly more desperate measures passed to increase our water rights, I've heard of feuds being fought over use of water.  These huge thunderstorms mean life to us in a life and death situation

Likewise, we pass through challenges that are not fun, but they are needful in order for us to grow.  Sad fact: you're probably in for something harder down the road.  If we didn't have these trials how could we hope to face what's ahead or to appreciate the beauty around us?  When you think about it honestly, how much of the beauty in your life can be traced to things you had to overcome?

little child, be not afraid
though storm clouds mask your beloved moon
and its candlelight beams, still keep pleasant dreams
I am here tonight

When I was depressed I felt no love of any kind-not for anyone or from anyone.  I felt no joy and no hope and I didn't know if I would ever again.  The thing was, those things were always there, just couldn't see them.  They hadn't even moved, they were just hidden for the moment.  The moment passed and I saw everything I had wanted was mine to begin with.

little child, be not afraid
though wind makes creatures of our trees
and their branches to hands, they're not real, understand
and I am here tonight

We may know in our minds that these things aren't true-monsters aren't waiting to eat us, people don't often die on the operating table, etc, but sometimes we need someone to acknowledge our fear and reassure us.  It doesn't make it go away, but it makes it a little easier to deal with.  Sometimes all we need is that someone to anchor us to reality and reassure us we will be okay

for you know, once even I was a
little child, and I was afraid
but a gentle someone always came
to dry all my tears, trade sweet sleep for fears
and to give a kiss goodnight

It's a comforting thought that the parents who rocked me to sleep when I was sick once needed to be rocked.  My niece's tears when she didn't perform as she hoped really tugged at my heart because I remember shedding the same tears at her age (and now on occasion.)  Sometimes we all need comfort and strength from loved ones, and sometimes we can give it.  Life is wonderful that way.

well now I am grown
and these years have shown
that rain's a part of how life goes
but it's dark and it's late
so I'll hold you and wait
'til your frightened eyes do close

It's wonderful that the things I worried about as a child don't scare me anymore.  I used to be so scared I would someday lose my mobility.  Now I know if that ever does happen I can handle it.  I still don't like the thought, but I've had experience enough to know that I'll be okay.  Likewise I fought tooth and nail to keep my first boyfriend from breaking up with me because I had no idea how to put myself back together afterwards.  Now I know that breakups are hard, but I can gain as much from them as the relationship.

I tell my little ones that they will be fine, but when they are still afraid I try to just hold them.  Life must be lived and now they are gaining strength and experience.  I've learned the wisdom in just holding them and waiting.

and I hope that you'll know...

everything's fine in the morning
the rain'll be gone in the morning
but I'll still be here in the morning

Now I have conquered the trials I faced so long ago.  I changed my career path, got out of the wheelchair, beat depression, and learned to love again.  The storm has passed (at least in those matters) but so many wonderful friends who lifted and supported me are still with me sharing in the joy and success.  When the storm is passed the world is truly a more beautiful place.

A final thought-think of yourself as the child and God as the parent-I like that interpretation best.

My Temple Experience

This week I had the remarkable opportunity to go through the temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for the first time, and I would like to share about it.

I will talk about the temple, but skip the play by play because it wouldn't do any good.  If I tried to describe it step by step I would use a lot of words and make it sound a lot more complicated than it is.  The truth is that everything that happens in the temple is simple and beautiful.  The subject material discussed is well covered here and (for those of you more familiar with our doctrine) here.

I think one of the biggest things that helped me prepare (besides Temple Prep class and studying this talk) was that I got to spend the day before serving others.  It was one of those kinds of service that didn't cost me anything and wasn't much if any inconvenience, but I knew I was recieving blessings by focusing on someone other than myself.  (kinda, I got really helped out too, but it's because I was with someone else.)

I chose the Gila Valley Temple because it is so near and dear to my heart.  The temple ordinances are the same wherever you go, but for me I wanted it to be that one.  It was beautiful and I loved every minute of it.

Every person is asked to bring an escort that first time through.  This is so you have someone to help you know what's going on at any given moment, someone to take care of you.  When I arrived my mother and I were asked to meet with the Temple President and Matron to make sure I understood what was happening here.  The words President Layton said to me will stick with me the rest of my life-"Sister Jana Christensen, today you have entered the Lord's house as the guest of honor."  That was how I felt the whole day.

The biggest surprise to me is that I expected something overwhelming and emotional, but it wasn't that at all. It was so simple and peaceful the whole time, and I loved it.  Don't get me wrong, there's a lifetime of learning and growing to be had there, but it's a very quiet time.  Of what was taught, I think my strongest impression was how much God loves each and every one of us.  Adam and Eve were so dear to the Father that he put the Atonement in place for them and each and every one of their posterity.  I am more committed than ever to sharing His love with all I meet, because that's what He's trying to do.

My whole life my worst fear is that if people really knew me, they would not like me.  When I was in the temple I knew with my whole soul that I am loved for who I am.  I am absolutely unique with a purpose and meaning to my life.  I have work to do and I will find myself capable of doing it.  I am excited to go back for the rest of my life and learn more, little by little, about how remarkable Gods children truly are.

For anyone reading this in anticipation of going, I have this piece of advice-don't worry.  It's really calm and you are always surrounded by people lovingly guiding you.  There's nothing to worry about.  One or two things were a little different than what I was used to, but this morning I realized that they were good educational practice, the kind I was taught in college and were not really any different at all, I just needed to get used to them in a different setting.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentines Day Done Right (for me)

The great day of romance has come again!  Where will single little me be on the fateful night? I will be spending it with a group of 8-11 year old girls.

No honey for me, no fancy dinner, no wine (there wouldn't be anyway), none of that jazz.  I'm here to tell you that's just how I like it.  Even when I did have a significant other on Valentines, I've never been into fancy; I don't really like dressing up and I hate pressure.  It seems to me that romantic dates have plenty of both.  You want to look right, act right, sound right.  I've seen couples who have been together for years freak out about making V-day special.  It seems like some people judge the quantity/quality of love in a relationship based on the tokens of a single day.

Kids don't do that.  Kids eat candy and give everyone a nice note and just generally walk around being happy.  They know that love should not be reserved for one person (relationships yes, caring no) and so they just share love with all the people around them.  They make cute crafts and cookies, and they party.  To me it sounds so much better to just go and have a good time rather than turning a holiday into an exam.  I encourage all of you (and myself) to be more like my girls.  Show some people you love them, smile, brighten other people's day, and keep some of the candy for yourself.