“It is what it is” – a phrase often heard in America. Most times, what we hear behind those words is a spirit of exasperation, frustration, or even resentment toward whatever circumstances have brought us to where we are. The words seem to be a routine attempt to accept “what is” but the emotion that comes with the words does not reflect acceptance at all.

A powerful witness during my time Ethiopia was meeting people who truly embody a resolve to live in the moment of “it is what it is.” Our hosts, Rachel and Argaw, live in a beautiful compound just steps from the lakeshore with their 5 beautiful children. Despite being equipped with modern amenities, it is common for the electricity to go out without notice. One of our first mornings, we woke to no electricity – no hot water for eight women to shower, no stove to prepare breakfast or the rich Ethiopian coffee, no light for necessary getting ready activities such as putting in contact lenses. We all came out of our various rooms buzzing with questions. “What’s wrong? Did we do something to blow the electricity? Is there a breaker switch to flip? How long will it be out?” Rachel was calm, despite the need to prepare breakfast for us before we headed to the children’s homes for the morning. “Nope – we randomly and often lose electricity.” There was no angst in her voice, no panic. She just rolled with “it” being “what it was.”

(Outside of the Church building)


On our second day there, Sunday, we went to church twice; in the morning we were at Ebenezer Grace, one of the children’s homes, where we got to hear God’s word powerfully spoken in Amharic and share in songs together. One special “in the moment” time was the spontaneous offering from Amanuel, a little blind boy, who wanted to get up and sing for us. Argaw explained that Amanuel wanted to be a worship leader some day! In the afternoon we were to attend a more “American” service for various adults and their families, most of whom were missionaries serving in Ethiopia. Rachel was to lead Worship Music and spearheaded much of the organization for the service. Before doing so, she had her own five kids to get dressed and “out the door,” music to rehearse, 8 houseguests (us) to feed, and on and on, but she went about it all with apparent ease. When we finally assembled outside to head to the church, scheduled to start in about 20 minutes and a couple miles away, they realized that we hadn’t considered transport for so many. They were calmly problem-solving – should Argaw make two trips, should some of us start to walk, etc. Argaw said “Just pile in! We’ll do this Ethiopian style.” As our analytical minds were questioning the likelihood of getting 15 passengers (plus a guitar) into one SUV, the kids begin to pile in, and the result was a bumpy, fun and “in the moment” ride to church.

On another occasion, we returned to the compound with Rachel around dinnertime to find a large circle of men in the compound yard. “Apparently my husband has invited some friends over,” she chuckled. I couldn’t help but think what my reaction would be in these circumstances. At the very least, I would have “kicked it into high gear” and rushed to the kitchen or to my husband to determine what needed to be done. Rachel’s demeanor didn’t change as her husband approached to welcome us to an impromptu celebration. He explained that progress had been made that day by the government to recognize and support the Sidamo tribe which had long been oppressed by the former government. We watched as over 100 men, many of them professors and students, and a few women gathered throughout the evening to celebrate this momentous occasion. The living room couches were brought out to the lawn, and sticks were laid for a fire to roast lamb, all with a spirit of joy and peace. The crowd listened intently to impromptu speeches. Even when one of our hosts’ children did somersaults in front of one of the speakers, no one looked or flinched or judged. It “was what it was” and it was beautiful. Despite his duties as host, Argaw took the time to step aside with his oldest son and, with his arm around him, explained the historical significance of what was going on.

We watched and photographed off to the side but were quickly invited to join the assembly – even given front row seats on the couches. We were humored as some men positioned themselves in front of us and took selfies with the conspicuous American women. And still, no one bemoaned or judged the selfie-taking – even though it took place right in front of the speakers. The crowd was completely focused on the speakers, sitting quietly, looking and listening, hands to chins, heads nodding in agreement and occasionally applauding. Once excused after nearly two hours, we decided to go to a local restaurant to review the day and all we had experienced. I watched as Rachel asked her husband if he minded if she went along with the girls (keep in mind that the lamb was yet to be roasted and the feast prepared). Argaw’s calm and sincere, “Sure. Have fun,” even after she asked him to keep an eye on the five kids, was a perfect example of living in “it is what it is”. And it was beautiful.

To say this was a stark contrast to our “modus operandi” is an understatement. Even though we went to Ethiopia with expectations to be flexible, to see difficult conditions, and to embrace what we experienced, I realized that our lifestyle has us programmed to react and respond in ways that prevent us from being fully in the present moment. As the days flew by, we fell more and more into the relaxed, go-with-the-flow state of being. And upon my return to the busyness of life in America, I resolve to think of my time in Ethiopia, and of Rachel and Argaw, and their complete acceptance of and joy in “it is what it is.”

All That Really Matters, by Beverly Smith

by Katie Henderson on June 9, 2018

The journey of motherhood has changed me in so many wonderful ways. One of those ways is how I see the world and what really matters. It’s easy to be happy when you realize that all you really need is faith, family, and friendship. All the material things started to fade off of my radar and all the ambitions to be somebody seemed to diminish when I realized I am the most important somebody to some people. I carry the titles of “mother,” “friend,” “daughter,” “steward,” and “wife.” These words are what help define me and make me feel complete.
God has worked through my life, teaching me through my daily struggles. He has taught me to love others, help where I can, and to soak up all the important small moments. When I joined Kindermusik and also a moms group at my church I found the places that help me to fulfill my calling as a steward.

I got involved in more than just enjoying the weekly classes at Kindermusik and signed up to help on their parent committee with fundraising. It was so much fun to give back with my time to something that has given my family so much! Also, the fundraiser was tons of fun! In my moms group, I have made a bundle of friends that make me feel so loved and cherished. I also give my time to the group by helping to fundraise and will soon be on their core team helping to plan our get togethers. All of these things help both my child and me. We both get social time away from each other to be with our peers and we get to learn from both experiences. We also get a community that makes our lives rich. I used to think earning a title and making money were all that mattered, but now I know it’s really just giving of yourself in ways that make you happy.

I love being a mom and I love how it has opened me up to so many friendships. The ladies I have met through Kindermusik and my moms group help me to realize that I am not alone. The ups and downs of this journey are normal! My soul and mind are healed every week when we talk about life with children, laugh about the funny stories we share, and commiserate on the trials we face. We support each other and help make this journey even more fun! I love my life and have never been happier. Happiness is a choice, after all!

Making Memories with Mama

May 21, 2018

By: Beverly Smith, Kindermusik parent When I think of the journey through the first year of Kindermusik for my daughter, Isabelle, I can’t help but feel grateful for all the joy it has brought her and my family. I moved to Normal, Illinois, when Isabelle was four months old. In the few short months since […]

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Process over Product – Considering a New Way of Life

January 1, 2018

This Christmas I was definitely NOT going to spend the multiple days and trips up and down my attic ladder needed to lug the 12 + large crates of decorations out when we were going away for the holiday. My life was too frantic, my back giving me fits, and I needed a break. I […]

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Kids – No Hidden Agenda There!

October 20, 2017

by Katie Henderson, Founder/Director of Music Connections Foundation As an early childhood educator, one of my “go to” kid sayings comes from the author of a favorite parenting book – Conscious Discipline, by Dr. Becky Baily. “Children are either extending love or calling for it.” Period. End of story. There is no hidden agenda or […]

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Gratitude with Intention – a Powerful Choice!

October 29, 2016

In my collection of fall decorations is a plate, gifted me by one of my dearest friends, embossed with this saying: “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” It was given to me at a time when I really needed to hear just that – you know, one of those messages from above – but […]

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Keep Calm – Pass it On

October 17, 2016

This quote from L. R. Knost, a child development researcher and author, has crossed my path numerous times in the past year and it struck a chord in me from the first. Had I seen this 10 years ago when I was deep in the little one/big emotion drama, I would have printed posters of […]

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Advice to a Parent – Say YES more often!

August 4, 2016

by Katie Henderson, Founder/Director of Music Connections Foundation, Inc. Last night in my final Kindermusik summer class, “Zoo Train,” my little cuties were heavily “into” exploring every single thing in our classroom other than all the things I had intended for us to explore: a tiny, random little bucket hung on the wall just above […]

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Like the Waves upon the Oceans & Shells Upon the Shore

March 22, 2016

Today I am feeling nostalgic. Because circumstances were such that I have had to miss teaching my Kindermusik classes for TWO weeks in a row – the first time in 22 years that I can recall that happening – I am missing my students! After what was to be a quick trip to my hometown […]

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A Mother from Russia Relishes the Gift of Music

December 6, 2015

Hi everyone! My name is Olya. I came to Normal from Vladimir, Russia 8 years ago to get my Master’s degree in Communications. Then I got married and had a daughter Leah. The marriage did not work out. When Leah was almost 6 months old I had to flee from the place where we resided […]

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