Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Big Thank You to Jenny!

I just got this photo from the Andrew Peterson concert. Thanks to Jenny for taking the photo, I hope to get some more from her if they turned out.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Still on an Andrew Peterson High!

At the concert yesterday, Andrew Peterson told the story of many of his songs, but one in particular was really incredible. I was familiar with the gist of the background on his song Queen of Iowa but to hear him tell it, to get the details first hand and hear his voice break with emotion was just impactful.

He got a call one day from a church asking if he would come and sing at the bedside of a woman who was dying. He was her favorite musician and they wanted to bring him there. He had never done anything like that before and agreed to do it but had no idea of the full story until he arrived. As he was going from the airport to her house someone filled him in on her situation.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember all the details, but when he arrived she had been in a coma for 3 days. In college she had been brutally attacked and contracted HIV. She had suffered from that and tumors throughout her body, especially her brain. She also always runs a temperature of 104 degrees. She had become paralyzed and was on pain medications and medicine to help her sleep. Those medicines caused her to have nightmares where she relived the attack over and over. The only thing she could do all day was to lay in bed and listen to her ipod. Her husband had loaded it with Christian music and mostly Andrew Peterson’s because he was her favorite. Her husband had fallen in love with her in elementary school and married her knowing about the attack and her health. He was her caregiver.

When they moved to the town a small local church heard about their situation and started to minister to them. They both accepted Christ as their savior and were believers because of that church, who was bringing Andrew to her that day. He had come with another musician friend and he said that they sat next to her bed as she laid in a coma and sang to her. Suddenly while they were playing she opened her eyes and was mouthing the words of his songs! They continued to play and sing with her and visited with her.

He said that experience had such an impact on him that he wrote this song for her. (Don't just read through the words. Let them soak in. Catch the double meanings and the depth of what he is saying. It's amazing)

I met the queen of Iowa
She was dying on a couch in the suburbs
And with all of the things she was dying of
She was more alive than the others

She was pretty as a flower in a crystal vase
It lights up the room as it withers away
And she opened her eyes
When she heard the music play

We sang a hymn to the rhythm of the river that flows
Down from the mountain of the Holy Ghost
And into the souls
Of those who know His name
Like the Queen of Iowa
She was the Queen of Iowa

Her majesty was all ablaze
She was burning hot but not consumed
Our shoes removed in that holy place
In the hallowed ground of the living room
I bowed down low and I kissed her hand
And we raised a toast to the Promised Land
And I saw the tears of joy
Run down her face

We sang a hymn to the rhythm of the river that flows
Down from the mountain of the Holy Ghost
And into the souls
Of those who know His name
Like the Queen of Iowa

Peace like a river in a valley of bones
It fills the valley up and it carries them home
She was the Queen of Iowa

I could see my illusions scatter
Every time she drew a breath
I could see the heart of the matter:
The heart is a matter of life and death
I’ll never be the same

We sang about oceans of love again
As she stared past the ceiling and the sky above
Two court musicians, it was me and Ben
We were singing for the Queen of Iowa

We sang a hymn to the rhythm of the river that flows
Down from the mountain of the Holy Ghost
And into the souls
Of those who know His name
There was peace like a river in a valley of bones
It fills the valley up and it carries them home
To come alive again
In the river of Grace
Like the Queen of Iowa
She was the Queen of Iowa
Long live the Queen of Iowa

Then Andrew told us that every time he is in Iowa for a concert he is able to go and visit her. Many of the songs on his newest album are in someway inspired by her too.

He said that as soon as he finished the newest album he sent a copy to her so her husband could load the new songs on her ipod but she was in a coma that lasted for 3 months. Her husband said that her brain was so full of tumors that the doctors said she was brain dead even though he feels her tap her pinky in his hand. The doctors said she is brain dead and it is only a muscle twitch that he feels. Still everyday she listens to the music. Andrew arrived some time after the album, to play for her again and as he was playing the new songs, she opened her eyes! The first time in 3 months and she was mouthing the songs on the new album! Did you catch that? The new album that she had only heard while she was in a coma and she knew the words! Also she moved her hand that she wanted to write and although her hands are twisted and paralyzed, they put a pen in her hand and held paper for her. She wrote “I believe in the invisible God” (a song title from his new album).

Andrew said he has that paper on his bedroom wall so he will see it everyday. He said that she is still alive today and inspiring him. It is an amazing story!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

An hour with Andrew Peterson!

(I wrote this yesterday but didn't have time to post it!)

My heart is full, my soul is soaring. Today I got a true gift from above. Tailor made for me and just a reminder that God loves me. Andrew Peterson did a free concert on campus (where I work) for the students and James and I went. It was so perfect for us because it was during the day, at my office, James’s big deadline was over and it was free. Any other time I hear about concerts they are on the weekends or evenings when I don’t want to impose on my parents to watch the boys more than they already have. So we have passed on several great concerts over the years.

So today I rushed over at 11:30 to get a good seat and wait for James who arrived just in time! I chose second row center because I didn’t want to sit too close. :-) I wondered if the room would be packed since it was free. It was a nice crowd but not too full so the front row remained mostly empty.

My friend and co-worker Jim was on the sound board and I talked with him for a while. He didn’t know about Andrew Peterson so I had the pleasure of bragging on just how good he is! Jim said that Andrew flew in on Southwest airlines with just a carryon that morning and they borrowed guitars for him to play! He would fly back home after the concert. I love that.

I don’t know exactly why, but I LOVE music. I always have. It does amazing things to me. A good song can change my mood, energize me and make my heart soar. A song I don’t like can make me crazy. (I shop better in stores with good music!) For me live music is just the very best. There is something about music performed live, surrounding me and seeping into my pores. And I particularly like Christian concerts because you get the best stories.

I absolutely love Andrew Peterson from the first note I heard when Tim and Marilyn introduced us to his music. His music style is so much like Rich Mullins and his lyrics are just amazing. The words he puts together and the way he does it is just magical. You can see the mountains in the ocean and feel the wind in the trees. It ministers to my heart in a way nothing else can.

I wish I could remember all my thoughts during that hour, all his stories and could share here how and why I laughed and held back tears. It’s just such an experience and I soaked it up to last me another life time until we can get out to a concert again.

This was my all time favorite kind of concert - one I wonder if most people ever experience. Laid back and casual, just Andrew Peterson on a small “stage” in jeans a t-shirt and dusty old boots that you know he loves. Just him and a guitar. What amazes me is how a song I have heard millions of time on CD, mixeds with other instruments and vocals can sound so sweet and and crisp and clean and just fill the room when it’s one voice and a guitar standing in front of me. The sound surrounds me and I feel my heart swell - I feel my soul pushing to soar out of my body but my ribs hold it back. Does anyone else feel that? The song almost takes on life and lyrics like his resound in the truth and love of God.

Early on he did one of my all time favorite songs that I loved when I first heard it but particularly love to listen to with Nathan in the car. It’s called the Chasing Song and has wonderful lyrics like:
‘Cause Job, he chased and answer
The wise men chased the Child
Jacob chased her 14 years and he
Captured Rachel’s smile
Moses chased the Promised Land
Joseph chased a dream
David, he chased God’s own heart
All I ever seem to chase is me

He started the second verse and stumbled a little on the words, started to stop, glanced around and down at me — I was enthusisatically nodding, “yes, yes that’s it, keep going!” and sang the rest of the song with him. He had been right on track and I knew it because I was singing along in my head. Well, when the song was done I got a smile and a nod from Andrew Peterson! Too fun.

After the concert was over I got to speak to him and get his signature on the kids cd that the boys enjoy. When I walked up he said “hey thanks for the assist on that song!” I told him it has been an all time favorite song for me since I first heard it, but now I drive home with my boys and that song is an opportunity to tell them Bible stories because Nathan is always asking me to tell him about the people. I also got to tell him James’s comment that hearing Andrew’s music makes us miss Rich Mullins less. And that is so true.

Thank you Andrew Peterson for spending a few hours with us, for sharing your stories and music and for just filling that room with the love, truth and grace of God.

If you don’t know Andrew Peterson’s music, get it! It is truly amazing, uplifting and just plain fun.

Check out his website for more info:

Go under promote and videos to see fun videos of him. I also just found this blog that has videos of him in concert!
(photos to come I hope! I didn’t take my camera but a friend was sitting next to us and she said she would send me her photos. She snapped one of me with Andrew Peterson too! He was kind enough to stay for photos and signatures until they were dragging him away for his plane.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Goodbye Dear Friend

Wednesday was a very sad day. We had to say goodbye to Niles.

Niles died Wednesday afternoon. I noticed he wasn’t feeling well last week. He started sleeping in the closet which isn’t like him and he was eating less and less. That wasn’t terribly unusual for him. He has had some pretty monster sized hairballs that took a few days to come up. So I had passed it off as a big hairball and we watched and waited for it to pass. Thursday and Friday he didn’t eat or poop at all so I started worrying it might be an intestinal blockage. Saturday morning when he hadn’t changed, I called our vet who usually has Saturday hours. They were closed for Easter. We waited out the day, hoping he would throw up a hairball and feel better. But after the boys went to bed, James and I knew this was more serious. We decided to take him to an emergency vet to find out what we were dealing with.

I’ve always taken care of the cats and taken them to the vet. I felt lost staying home with Daphne and our sleeping boys as James took my sick buddy to the vet. I didn’t hear anything until about 1 am when James called to say Niles was in kidney failure. They didn’t know how bad it was and there was a chance he could come out of it with enough kidney function to have 10 more good years. But he would have to stay the night (which ended up being the weekend) with an IV. They took really good care of him but we had to take him to our vet on Monday morning because they are only open when normal vets are closed.

There are three numbers that show kidney function and his were very high, one of them even higher than the machines would read. We waited through Wednesday hoping the numbers would go down. Niles still would not eat. Wednesday around 1:15 I got the call that Niles was having trouble breathing and wouldn’t be able to make it much longer. I rushed to be with him and was so grateful to get to hold his head (they were giving him oxygen to keep him comfortable), pet and kiss him, scratch him and tell him how dearly I loved him. Our vet said Niles’s kidneys had stopped functioning - he knew this because that morning he had given Niles a shot that should have made him pee a lot and he had not peed at all. Soon after James arrived, we knew we should put Niles to sleep so he would not have to continue to struggle to breath or suffer. With the IV port in his arm, he didn’t have to get poked with any needles and he passed quietly and quickly.

I am sad, I miss my friend, and I was really caught off guard. I fully expected him to live 20+ years like the other cats I have had. In July Niles would have turned 10.

His sister Daphne is doing alright, but we will have to watch and wait. She meowed a lot the first few days Niles was at the vet. She still seems a bit lost and I think she might know he isn’t going to be around. Niles was such a good cat for Nathan and Evan - very tolerant and nice to them. We will miss that. I’m not sure yet if we will try to find another cat that would be good with the boys and Daphne. Or if we will just wait a while to see if Daphne mellows out. I just doubt she will ever let the boys come near her.

We will never know what happened to cause Niles to die so soon. Our vet said it could have been genetic, something he ate or some toxin that damaged his kidneys recently or years ago. So, who knows if it will happen to Daphne too. He said it was just like people who have heart attacks and die at 30. It shouldn’t happen and doesn’t make sense, but maybe that’s just all the time he had here. A hard reminder to love well and generously in the moment you are with your friends and loved ones because you never know if you will have that chance tomorrow.

So, we are left with a void in our home. We got Niles and Daphne about 6 months after they were born, from a PetSmart adoption day in 1999, a little over two years after we were married. They have been such a part of our lives it seems strange to not have him around.

Niles was a crazy, high maintenance cat who could be annoying and sweet. He did stupid things like pulling a string from a throw blanket and swollowing it, only to have to go to the vet when he couldn’t pass the string! A long haired cat who hated to be combed, he would shed puffs of hair that he often ate! He was so fat. With all that hair, he looked huge and had so much beautiful puffy hair. He would scarf down his food and chase Daphne from her bowl so he could eat her’s too. Then when she meowed and cried because she was hungry, he was always near by to eat up any food I would put down for Daphne. One year we bought feeders that would rotate and open with a timer when we were going on vacation - Niles figured out how to pry the lid off and eat all the food!

He would often leave the room we were in or go downstairs if we were watching a movie upstairs and meow his loud and moanful meow until one of us would come find him. Then he would either sit there and stare at you or run to the perch and lay down. He kept my feet warm at night and weighed down the covers. His purr could shake the walls and he would headbutt me in the back when I cleaned the pan. When he was younger he could jump as high as my head! He loved catnip and treats. He loved lunch meat even more and would be meowing at my feet if I just thought of making a turkey sandwich. He didn’t have to hear the package to know there was meat around. He would run in front of my feet and almost trip me when I was going to feed him.

He would sleep on his back with his legs all to the side, like a person, big belly up and begging to be rubbed! He looked so funny, like a big slipper. Head upside down he would turn to look at you with this expression that just said “WHAT?!?” He was funny!

James did something hilarious with him called the Niles Gun. He would hold Niles like a rifle but down at his side - Niles paws draping down, bored look on his face. Then with sound effects, James would “cock” Niles and pretend to shoot him, little paws dangling, eyes rolling in annoyance. We would laugh and laugh.

But Niles could stink up a litter pan and he would come out howling at us about it too. He would scratch the wall or door frame when he was bored or mad at us. He got hairballs often and his hair matted up so I would have to cut off clumps of it.

He could drive you crazy meowing at you and Nathan came up with a game called Meowin’ Fight. If Niles kept meowing, Nathan would run after him yelling “meowin’ fight” until Niles jumped on a chair or the perch. Then Nathan would go back to his playing, satisfied that Niles would be quiet for a while. Nathan also loved to pile every cat toy we had on Niles’s back and head while Niles laid still and let him - annoyed look on his face.

We love you buddy and will always miss you. I wish we had be given more time to love on you. But I am so glad you were ours!