The discipline of silence with a singing soul

I was born singing. It’s what I do. Here’s a little rhyme I just made up about it. 
I sing when I’m happy, I sing when I’m sad. 

I sing when I’m angry, and when things go bad. 

The songs and tunes change for each situation. 

But singing is always my soul’s proclamation. 
Since late November, I’ve had a hoarseness to my voice. Overuse makes it worse. Last month, the ear, nose, and throat doctor put a scope through my nose and down my throat and said I have a hemorrhagic nodule on my left vocal chord. (The doctor described it as a callous with a blood blister.) If it worsens, he said, he wants to do a biopsy. He left me with the following orders: “Minimal talking and when talking is necessary, whisper. For at least a month.”

I laughed. 

“I’m serious,” he said, “Totally serious.”

Let’s start with challenge #1: Mothering 7 and 4 year olds and a 7 month old with a whisper is laughable. Impossible, really, but I’m trying. What I have noticed is those rare moments when it does work, it affects us all. Mom uses a softer tone, so do the children. 

Challenge #2: I’m the co-founder of a peer-support organization, all relational, walking with those grieving the death of a child. Surely there are times of silence as we process grief together, but so much of what I do involves conversation. Still, doc says, converse quietly. 

Challenge #3: I’m a minister. I speak, I sing, I lead worship. Nix all of that for now. There’s no way to do any of that quietly. In order to keep from belting out in corporate song during worship, I’ve been making great use of my “coloring Bible.” 


(More on that in an upcoming blog.)

Oddly enough, this very situation is the reason you are reading this blog. This is my voice. As much as I am a singer, I am that much more a writer. It is my catharsis. But mi vida loco takes precedence and my true voice gets lost in the chaos. 

I don’t know the final outcome of this nodule nor what steps will be required for full and complete healing. I know my voice is not any better today than when the doctor first diagnosed me, but it’s also not worse. Praise God. The doctor talked of voice therapy and even the possibility of surgery as a last resort. It feels big. Frustrating. Especially when my soul is bursting with song and there is no release. 

But lessons are emerging from the silence. My soul is growing and deepening, making space to hear and experience God and life in new and amazing ways. While I eagerly await and expect complete healing, I don’t want to miss the lessons in the silence. 

I’m sure you will read about them here. Thanks for spending time with me today.

Waiting

Waiting. I am currently waiting for a haircut appointment. I have someone else waiting on me for an appointment. But sometimes the waiting is more difficult. Sometimes waiting requires being present. Being present requires being still, reflective, looking deep within and acknowledging all that we are and then addressing that which is revealed.

Yesterday I waited for my grief to diminish. Grief that caught me off-guard as I anticipate the 6-year anniversary of our daughter’s birth and death this week. Six years. Haven’t I waited long enough?

I wait in anticipation of my upcoming licensing service this Sunday.

I can fill my waiting time with meaningless clutter or I can sit, be present, feel and acknowledge whatever emotions I am experiencing at that moment and pray that in the waiting I am learning and growing, emptying and filling.

And sometimes, waiting is done best by playing…

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The power of intentional living

It’s true, most of my problems are merely first-world inconveniences. Yes, there are those valid emotional agonies and scarring life experiences that are universal, but all too often my stresses are self-imposed and stem from over scheduling and busyness.

So when our riding lawn mower had an extended stay in the repair shop, I was only slightly daunted by the task of tackling our overgrown yard with a non-self-propelled push mower.

Considering it takes three hours with the riding mower and someone else feeding our little urchins and wiping their noses and bottoms, using the push mower and being solely responsible for the kiddos at the same time made this look like an all-day affair.

Those who really know me know that I not Pollyanna by nature. I am selfish, cynical, critical, ungrateful and extremely impatient. (My husband is a little more gracious in his description of me.) None-the-less, I have to practice an attitude of gratitude. Living my life on purpose is the only way I can be and become the person I want to be rather than who I am. I decided to take this land-mowing opportunity to be intentionally grateful.

As I pushed the mower along, I became aware of the gift of walking. I breathed in the hot sticky air and was thankful for the gift of smell. I was truly aware of what was around, beneath and above me.

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Now I am more of a wildflower gal, so I don’t get who invented this lawn mowing business anyway. Metaphorically, well-manicured and perfectly tended lawns and lives seem a bit boring to me. Give me beauty all-naturale any day. But I consciously gave thanks for the gift of green grass that needed cut according to town ordinances and machine-powered mowers as I walked back and forth in the hot sun.

This evening, Lee and I are celebrating eight years together. While we have much to celebrate, cultivating our marriage has been intentional as well.

Together we have experienced the unimaginable grief of the death of our daughter, we’ve experienced job losses, and typical marital stresses. But by being intentional about caring for each other with mutual respect and commitment, these adversities have only fertilized and watered the lawn of our relationship and turned what could have been dry, dusty, brown and dying into lush beautiful and green.

I made an intentional effort to continue counting blessings throughout the morning, but as the sun grew hotter, the air stickier and combined with multiple interruptions to care for the babies, I had to become even more intentional. This was not a sprint, but a marathon and the excuses for quitting mounted with each passing swath.

As with anything in life, growing and cultivating takes time, perseverance, and doing and living on purpose.

But when the baby comes to me, clearly taking advantage of my in-attention by eating dirt, and offers me a hand-picked dandelion or our son uses his magic wand to turn the push mower into a rider, all the combined wealth of the world could not afford so rich a moment. The power of intentional living has the power to transform. It only takes a moment of purposeful intentional reflection to be reminded How. Blessed. I. Am.

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Us seven years ago on our 1-year dating anniversary

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Elsie Ray with her dirty face and beautiful dandelion

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Eli using his magic wand to turn my push mower into a rider

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Us this evening

Interruptions

No less than 20 inches of snow have fallen outside our window throughout the past 16 hours and it is still coming down. The winter wonderland is beautiful, but it has interrupted our lives in that my husband’s flight was cancelled and now he is making the treacherous journey home in a rental car. He has already spent one more night away from us than planned because of this storm.

Thankfully, we use a wood stove for heat and have firewood stockpiled next to the stove, we have a nice cozy house and I planned ahead to make sure our refrigerator and cabinets had plenty of food. So while we wish for Lee to come home safely, the interruption could be much worse.

It seems we’ve had our share of interruptions lately. Unemployment, job changes and a chronically sick child have been some of the larger interruptions, and then there are the small, everyday inconveniences of running late, running behind, and everything in between. The death of our daughter five years ago was a most unwelcome interruption that nearly destroyed me.

Interruptions happen. Life happens. Death happens. Most often I can point to these life-altering interruptions and see that is seems like something terrible is always involved, and indeed, in many cases that is so. But how we respond to the interruptions can destroy us or make us stronger. Obviously, some take a lot more time, practice, and working through than others, but they can all be tools that change and shape us into more loving compassionate and empathetic human beings or can harden our hearts with bitterness and anger.

One of my favorite Scriptures says…

“But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3

These words have guided me, comforted me and sometimes were the only thing that carried me through my life’s interruptions. When I passed through the waters and felt I would drown in my tears, I was sustained and comforted by this ancient text written by another who knew about life’s interruptions. Although I can’t always see the other side of the river or I feel the heat of the flames consuming my flesh, I find refuge in the Holy One of Israel and know that if I live I live with God and if I die I die with God; either way, I am with God.

In this, I can know that these interruptions have a greater purpose than what my mind can conceive or understand.

If you are experiencing interruptions today, whether they are mere inconveniences or life-altering, I pray that you too experience the comfort of the Holy One of Israel.

Experiencing the holy in everyday moments

I was excited about participating in a “NuDunkers On Pneumatology” online discussion this morning. Pneumatology is just a fancy word for the theologies of the Holy Spirit. With a 4-year-old and a 17-month-old at home, I prepared ahead of time to make sure I would have the perfect quiet atmosphere for the discussion of this fascinating topic.

Yeah right!

Instead of reflective and educated ruminations about the Holy Spirit, I was saying things, “Elsie, get Eli’s underwear off your head.” “Eli, don’t sit on top of Elsie and stop pulling the dog’s ears.” This, all while listening as best I can to an honest and through-provoking discussion about the Holy Spirit.

But this is the beauty of my life; holy moments wrapped in the humdrum of the everyday. My life has many seemingly insignificant moments and yet when I pause and pay attention, I hear the whispers of God in it all. And in my personal experience, that is my pneumatology of the Holy Spirit.

Why God Made Thistles

Our 3-year-old son walked up to the screen door today and whimpered softly, “Mom, why did God make thistles?”

“I’m not sure,” I replied, having often wondered myself why God made nuisances such as thistles, bats, mosquitoes,  mice, and well, you get the picture.

I gathered Eli in my lap. He still upset from planting a bare foot squarely into a sprawling “sticker” in our back yard so I determined to help him find a purpose for the pain. We set out to learn more how thistles affect our environment. What we found was a lot of advertising for “wild thistle honey.”

Aha, there it was. The teachable moment I was looking for. Apparently beekeepers often place hives near patches of uncontrolled thistle plants in the fall of the year and voilà, sweet molasses-like honey abounds.

I explained to Eli how thistles are food for birds and bees and how that helps the bees produce honey. Then, to myself, I thought, “It’s interesting how something that causes a little pain can produce such sweet results. Kind’ve like life it we allow it to be so.”