Covering my angst with the soothing wisdom from my mother's prayer journals

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Benefits of Gratitude are Scientifically Proven – Increase Your Doseage

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An article in Psychology Today listed seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude:

  1. It opens the door to more relationships.
  2. It improves physical health,
  3. Gratitude Improves psychological health.
  4. It enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
  5. Grateful people sleep better.
  6. Gratitude improves self-esteem.
  7. It increases mental strength.

I know all the above, yet I often pass up opportunities to practice appreciation and have had the same feeling one of our grandsons shared after opening Christmas presents several years ago.

He sat amid the shreds of red and green wrapping paper looking forlornly at a pile of age appropriate and unnecessary gifts. Feeling concerned I asked, “Didn’t you like the things you got?”

He replied, “Yes, but I was hoping for more.”

It was an honest answer and I understood because the Christmas of my fourteenth year left me with the same adolescent disappointment. There were so many things I wanted and so few gifts at hand. My ingratitude reflected my immaturity.

I’m not sure when I began seeing the glass half full rather than half empty, but I know Mother was an agent for that change. She recognized a blessing and was quick to point it out. Our trips back and forth from my grandmother’s house were full of oohs and aahs over every pastoral scene down HWY 45 South even though we’d made that trip hundreds of times. As a child of the Depression, she could have easily become bitter and negative, but she intentionally chose gratitude.

When our beautiful baby boy arrived with severe mental and physical challenges, he became my gratitude guide. Though I was a reluctant participant at first, his gleeful shrieks and unfailing persistence made me realize how much most of us take for granted. We were grateful for any hard won achievement no matter how small or how long it took to accomplish.

When he was three he woke us in the night humming Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. No words, just a perfect melody. The next Christmas Mother gave him his first of many radios that became his lifeline.

He has quite a repertoire. He will hum a few bars of one of his favorite songs then stop and wait for someone to finish the tune. It’s our version of Name That Tune most often played when we’re traveling. Recently his first request was Jingle Bells. My Bass Singer and I immediately identified that tune and commenced a hearty rendition.  It pleased Matt and when we finished he followed with Jesus Loves Me.

As we responded to that lovely song, a little blessing was revealed in the form of a sweet spirit of gratitude, laughter and joy. I didn’t “hope for more’.  This was more than I deserved.

In her journal Mother wrote, ”The only genuine source of happiness is God, and we receive lasting joy only through expressing gratitude to Him. Seek God and live as he directs you and true joy will soon follow.”

Making gratitude a daily practice confers a whole host of health benefits from improved immune systems, to feelings of connectedness.  I just have to take regular doses.






Mandisa, Natalie Grant, the Grammys and Living for Him

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The line,”Music hath charms to soothe the soul”,  has often been quoted for good reason. For years music therapy has been an important component of healing and rehabilitation.

Our son has severe physical and mental limitations, but he can hum his favorite tunes in perfect pitch. We realized his love for music when he was in a special preschool that provided music therapy for the students.

When I was growing up our home was always filled with the sounds of Big Band music and Dixieland jazz.

There were often spontaneous gatherings around our piano for hymns sung in duet, trio or four-part harmony.

Motown, The Beetles and Elvis have prominent places in my memories and when our girls became teens we rocked along with the groups of the eighties and nineties.

Right now I’m listening to String Quintet No 2.(I know this because the title is displayed on the screen) and thinking what a talent Mozart was.

There are millions of people like me whose musical tastes lead them to avoid what is now referred to as Main Stream Music and its antics.

I didn’t watch the Grammy Awards, but the media provided enough information that made me think I didn’t miss a music award so much as I avoided a mess.

Natalie Grant, a critically acclaimed Christian artist attended and unintentionally caused a media storm when she left early.

She tweeted that the night was a beautiful reminder of why she chooses to stay in Christian music rather than enter the main stream. She did not say one unkind word about any of the performances that she sat through.

Mandisa, a beautiful and talented Christian artist who won two Grammy Awards, stayed home. She cited several good reasons but the one I appreciated most was,

“I have been struggling with being in the world, not of it lately. I have fallen prey to the alluring pull of flesh, pride and selfish desires quite a bit recently. I knew that submerging myself into an environment that celebrates those things was risky for me at this time.

I can’t force my morality on anyone else. What I can do is stand firm in my values and do all these things in love.”

These women are on a world stage and their personal decisions caused media storms to come against them. But there are storms going on constantly on smaller stages.

Here is a recent Facebook post which powerfully expresses this young woman’s feelings on living her faith,

I love Jesus! I love Him more than anyone which is why I praise Him, worship Him, talk about Him and think about Him all the time . .It is why no matter how ugly the world seems, I fear nothing. Jesus had my back on the cross. He had my back when He rose, and He has my back now. There are more people who feel the way I do than there are who don’t. We’ve just been too afraid to offend the very ones who have no problem offending us.

We talk in hushed groups at work or school, but not too loudly for fear of being reprimanded, written up or called out by bigger voices and smaller spirits. I will no longer hush my voice or apologize for believing exactly what the Word of God says. It is His love letter to me and it is beautiful. It is Holy and true.”

On stages big and small people are being obedient as they live out Psalms 107:2, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!”

Wanting their lives to glorify Him, they provide encouragement for other believers and give  non believers something to think about.

Mother wrote in her journal, “Obedience is both passive and active. It is not just enough to avoid what is wrong, we need to actively pursue what is right.”

These young women have reminded me that as one of the redeemed I glorify Him when I say so.


Thank God for the Constants

024Our son is now in his mid- forties, and if I picked one word to describe him I would pick consistent. His likes and dislikes don’t change. His behavior doesn’t vary so we know what to expect from him. In that respect he contradicts one of my favorite sayings, “Nothing is permanent but change.”

Because Matt doesn’t vary, it is easier to see the changes all around him.
Since he was five and his grandmother gave him his first radio, radios have been an important part of Matt’s daily schedule. His limited vision makes listening to the stations, as he turns the knobs and pushes the buttons, a help with keeping him occupied. Until recently the ones he likes were easy to come by so I took them for granted.

Last year I realized they were becoming scarce so when I came upon twelve of them at one store, I bought them all. The person who checked me out raised an eyebrow as I swiped my card and carted them to the car.

Arriving home I took them to the closet in Matt’s room and put them into four stacks of three. There was a peace in my soul knowing they were there.

Somehow, we are now down to two. Last week his dad and I visited several stores that had carried them and found one radio which we purchased. Yesterday after Sunday dinner, we drove to two nearby towns and found another radio which we now have. Though not yet panicked, we are alert to the changing market.

Matt has the same type of loyalty to his shoes. They have to be just the right type of white athletic shoe. When he gets a new pair he taps his feet around like a happy dance only he’s sitting down. He got a new pair Saturday and I’m praying they will continue to be manufactured. We should probably stock up on those just in case there is a change.

Before his visits we stock the refrigerator with Matt’s favorites: hot dogs, sausage, chips, oranges, donuts. We keep the sweet tea pitcher full. We take it for granted that those items will be available, but in life nothing is constant, except God’s love and Matt’s expectations.

In her journal Mother wrote, “True joy transcends the rolling waves of circumstances. Joy comes from a consistent relationship with Jesus Christ. (John 15:11) The joy of living with Jesus will keep us level-headed no matter how low or how high our circumstances.”

One of Matt’s favorite songs is The Joy of the Lord is My Strength and when we sing it I’m reminded that our joy depends on knowing that the source of our faith, Jesus Christ, has always been and will always be here for us. Sometimes I take that for granted.


Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Because I want to share Mother’s wisdom, I started a blog that led to a book (In My Mother’s Words) which is available through Amazon. Wanting to connect and share, I got a Twitter account which got hacked last night.

I am pretty sure the imp only succeeded in annoying a few sweet people. Several messaged me because they knew I wouldn’t “say naughty” things about them.

The teacher in me reared up and I longed to deliver a tirade to the wayward one about using his/her apparent aptitude for something productive, but I settled for contacting the appropriate Twitter folk and changing my password.

This morning the problem was solved, and the incident reminded me of the bumper sticker that states, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.”

The bumper sticker is only true if you’ve first experienced some “Big Stuff”.

Last Sunday the service was crowded and the worship leader asked everyone to move to the middle so people waiting for seats could find places.  Three members of a family sat down next to us and the dad sat on the pew behind them.

Having sat near this family before, we knew that the son, a young adult, had Cerebral Palsy.  Worship began with singing and our pew partner was joyful. Hearing him made me joyful, but when he sang the lyrics, “Your grace is sufficient for me! Your grace is sufficient for me!” I heard a sermon.

My volunteer work allows me to help a young man with spinal bifida get his GED. He loves to learn and has out distanced my abilities in the algebra and geometry department.  When he rolls into the computer lab with a smile on his face and his study notes in his hand, I see a sermon.

Matt, our grown son, was born with severe brain and optic nerve damage. I believe he is still a genius because he has learned so much with the cards he was dealt. Because of him, most things seem like small stuff to us.

When he was six we moved to a small town in Kansas. We had been there a few weeks when we received an invitation to dinner at the home of a professor at the university.  She graciously extended the invitation to include the children.

I told her we would bring the girls, but I would get a sitter for Matt.  She responded, “Oh bring him.  We don’t believe in hiding your burdens.”

That was like a slap in the face!  He wasn’t my burden; he was my blessing.  Well, to make a short story shorter, she kept insisting until I (against my better judgment) agreed to bring all three kids.

When the evening was over the hostess was smitten with Mattie even though his table manners were messy and loud.

In her journal Mother wrote, “No problem is beyond God’s ability to solve.  No circumstance too difficult for Him.”

I have great admiration for people who have overcome “Big Stuff”.  They inspire me and make me realize most problems are small.  In light of these overcomers, the imp hacking away on Twitter is really small stuff.