Tune My Heart to Sing Thy Grace

(Is it just me, or do you see a hand in this picture I took after The Big Snow of Aught Nine?  I call it “Winter’s Icy Grip.”)

I had a birthday last week, as I have every January for as far back as I can remember.  And as I am prone to do on birthdays (especially as I have gotten older), I pondered and reflected on the year past and the year yet to come.

Like a lot of people who spend too much time thinking about stuff, I tend to get all philosophical this time of year and to think I’m having deep and profound insights when really I’m likely just boring people to tears.  When my kids were living at home, they probably dreaded my pensive ponderings because all that contemplation would often result in Wise Motherly Lectures which would often leave my children looking like caged animals, their eyes darting about, looking for a means of escape.

Really, I should say that Ariel and Benjamin have always been pretty tolerant of my Wise Motherly Lectures, which consisted of pretty much the same admonitions mothers have been giving their children for hundreds of years.  Probably the one thing I said the most to them was to “Be True,” which I think is essential in a world where so much is false.  Be true to yourself, be true to others, be true to God, I’d say.  Along with “Be Positive.”  Don’t spend too much time beating yourself up over mistakes made, but learn from them, make amends for them, and then look ahead.  And always, always I told them to “Be Thankful.”   Be thankful for what you have rather than bemoaning what you don’t.

Even though I like to think that My Endless Fount of Motherly Wisdom influenced my children in some small way, quite likely the very best thing that’s come of my lectures is their effect on MY behavior.   I’ve always been painfully aware that I couldn’t tell them to do something that I wasn’t doing myself.  I needed to walk the talk, to practice what I preach because, as a parent, I think that you’re wasting your breath with a lecture if you’re not living your own words.   

I’ve thought about this for the past few weeks as I’ve found myself slipping into a bit of a funk and engaging in way too much self-pity following our less-than-pleasant experiences over the holidays.  I’ve fretted and worried over all that lost food, all that lost time, and the hospital bills that will soon be in our mailbox.  I’ve whined about the cold weather, then griped about all the mud in our driveway after the cold earth thawed in a rare warm spell.  Not to mention a host of smaller things that make me cranky—auto insurance that went way up for no reason, a computer monitor that died, increasing gas prices…

But I am brought up short when I watch the latest footage from Haiti.  So much devastation, so much loss, so much misery.  Who am I to whine?  I have food, I have shelter, I have a soft bed to fall into at night.  And when Benjamin needed surgery, we had access to the best of medical care (even if it does cost an arm and a leg).  As difficult as it was to see him lying in pain, I had the reassurance of knowing that he was in good hands, both in the physical realm and in the spiritual.

The other night on the news, I watched a report that showed a group of Haitian ladies singing hymns in the middle of all that wreckage.   I was moved by their courage and faith in the midst of so much hardship.  I didn’t recognize the hymn, but the light and spirit shining forth in their faces transcended any language or cultural barriers.

That night, while washing dishes, I found myself singing an old hymn that I hadn’t sung for years, from my childhood in the Baptist church.

“Come thou fount of every blessing
  Tune my heart to sing thy grace.
  Streams of mercy never ceasing
  Call for songs of loudest praise.”

I felt tears spring to my eyes as I thought about those singing Haitians who had lost so much, perhaps including sons and daughters.  And I thought of my own son, so recently in peril, but now back at school and doing well. And my daughter, who’s found her voice as an artist and writer and is as happy as I’ve ever seen her.  And I thought of our refrigerator full of food, our warm house, and even about how blessed I was to have this warm soapy water in a nice clean sink to wash dishes in.

So I’m singing now.  And I’m counting my blessings and thanking God for unceasing streams of mercy.  I pray that my heart will always be tuned to sing His grace.  

And, of course, I’m praying for the people of Haiti and for all the people who are ministering to their needs there.  You’ve probably already donated, but if you haven’t, the United Methodist Committee on Relief will use 100% of funds donated for Haitian Relief to help the people of Haiti (with none used for administrative costs).  I couldn’t give much, but I was happy to know that every penny I gave would go to ease that terrible suffering.

How beautiful the sound was of those women singing in the face of tragedy!  May God bless them.  And may they always sing their “songs of loudest praise.”

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20 Responses to “Tune My Heart to Sing Thy Grace”

  1. Benjamin Says:

    Yes! Praise the Lord!

    Astronomy class didn’t get to go outside last night–it was cloudy. But still I marveled as we talked about how the telescope’s most important function is “gathering light!” :-) And we calculated how small our human eyes’ capabilities are in comparison. But one day we will see the light!!

  2. wesleyjeanne Says:

    Beth–As always your writing moves me to tears with its beauty and insight. How wonderful that you can listen to your own voice within. But please know that really it’s okay once in a while to just let yourself feel what you feel–have that pity party–and *then* move on.

    I am thinking of you and sending prayers of healing and light.

    Also: I love that hymn and sometimes sing it to myself. NC singer Claire Holley has a rather lovely version to listen to.

    And…It should be noted that UMCOR also lost one of their people in the earthquake and yet they are still there giving giving giving 100%.

    Finally, I’m happy that Benjamin is doing well (and Ariel, too).

    Hugs to you my friend. I’ll send you an email soon.

  3. Sweetflutterbys3 Says:

    Beautifully expressed, as always! I feel the same way. And thank you for the kick in the pants. I’m having one of those days today and I needed it!

    I attend an UMC too and they had the annoucement in our bulletin last weekend about the donations. I wish we could do more. I have been praying for them. Hopefully, they are getting more help now and things will improve. Still, it’s all so heartbreaking.

  4. Betsy from Tennessee Says:

    I love your post, Beth, and truly–to be honest, I find myself doing the same things this time of year. I love the holidays–and find myself almost being depressed in January (for NO reason). I look at your situation and then I look at the Haiti situation —and I have absolutely nothing to feel sorry for myself about. BUT–those feelings are there, deep inside, for who knows what reason. I find myself very teary this month–but I’ll admit that my tears (good ones and bad ones) come much more freely than they ever used to. Guess that’s part of getting old!!! ha

    Happy Birthday, my friend. I do know that you (and I) are very very blessed —and we both know that. But we are human and we do have feelings and emotions. I guess it’s normal to be able to get those feelings out sometimes.

    I love that hymn… There are so many comforting hymns and scriptures. Reading and listening truly help…

    Well–soon it will be spring and we’ll be finished with another winter. In the meantime, let’s remember what you say, that it is our behavior and not our words that matter.

    Lots of HUGS,
    Betsy

  5. lora Says:

    Thank you for this post. And the picture you chose to post was simply perfect.

  6. Bonnie Jacobs Says:

    I love the picture of the singing bird. And a belated happy birthday to you. I don’t remember if I knew you’re United Methodist — so am I. Did you know that three UMCOR officials were trapped for days in the rubble of Haiti? Only one of the three survived. http://media.gbgm-umc.org/tribute-blog/

  7. Bonnie Jacobs Says:

    This is from the one who survived the earthquake: http://gbgm-umc.org/global_news/full_article.cfm?articleid=5636

  8. Sharon Says:

    A very belated Happy Birthday and I am ashamed I don’t know exactly when your birthday is. Please let me know! I don’t know that hymn but I will certainly try to find it on YouTube or something. I was just thinking the other day how much I like hymns and always have. As for the gratefulness part of your post, it resonates so much with me. I always marvel at how fortunate I am and how grateful I am for the most ordinary moments in life. (Even though I seem to love complaining, too.) But watching the tragedy in Haiti has reinforced that gratefulness a hundredfold. I would hope to be one of the women singing, but am so afraid I wouldn’t be. It’s easy to love one of my favorite hymns “How Can I Keep From Singing?” when I’m living the life I have. How would I do in their situation? I stand in awe of that spirit.

  9. CountryDew Says:

    Happy Birthday! I hope it truly was a blessed day for you. Even if you did think a lot.

  10. Jayne Says:

    Glad to know I am not the only one in a funk these days. But, you are right… when we look at everything we have and then see the images of those who literally have nothing… well, it makes me cry for all sorts of different reasons. I love your motherly advice Beth, and rejoice with you that your own children are healthy and happy.

  11. southernlady64 Says:

    Hi Beth, You say it all so beautifully and reflect my thoughts exactly. That does look like a snow hand in the picture. Happy Birthday to you friend and I am so glad your Benjamin is much better and doing well.
    I used to tell my children the same things when they were growing up and I guess some of it took because they have a great outlook on life that makes me proud. I love some of the older hymns but never heard that one before. My mother used to go around the house singing them all the time years ago when I was a child. I am sure your Ariel is growing into a lovely young lady with lots of hopes and dreams of her own. I, too, feel so sorry for the people of Haiti and all they are experiencing
    during this awful time. Lastly, that little bird looks like it is singing a song of hope and happiness for us all!

  12. eemilla Says:

    Happy Birthday! I think your advice of walking the walk is a perfect piece of parenting advice. Thanks for your post, and the photo of the icy grip.

  13. clairz Says:

    Beth, even though we will never meet, my life is always made richer when I read your words. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your faith, and your wonderful wisdom.

    I love that little bird!

  14. Jeff Says:

    Thanks for yet another wonderfully written piece. It is understandable to feel rather cranky during a cold miserable winter, but it is so nice that you can find the goodness, too. From the icy hand and the singing bird to the comfort of home. I gave to an organization called Hands Together, which is a Catholic social justice group active in Haiti since 1985. The tragedy is more heartbreaking than most, since Haiti is so impoverished for reasons that most do not have a clue about. I have three of the most wonderful Haitian paintings – one of them reminds me daily of the paintings by Henri Rousseau. It has hung on my wall for almost 30 years (!!) and I still love it. May the weather turn more comfortable and the sodden earth dry out a bit soon!

  15. Martha Says:

    Happy belated birthday Beth! I hope it was a good one. And don’t be too hard on yourself. The way we feel is relative to our lives, no matter where we are in the world, and what we are facing. You have your own problems and they are a burden to you. Remember that others around the world are facing worse situations, but don’t feel bad for feeling worry and stress over your own. You’re human, after all.

    This was a lovely post, as always. And the picture of the bird singing is so fitting to your writing.

  16. colleen Says:

    I think the combination of a birthday AND a new year can stir deep thinking and reviewing. I’m so glad you are feeling more uplifted now. I watched the last Conan Tonight Show and he gave a rousing speech for not being cynical and for counting your blessings.

    Happy Birthday!

  17. Ariel Says:

    I will always love your Wise Motherly Lectures, no matter how much I try to run away. This post is wise indeed. Thank you for the reminder to constantly remember that our lives are always blessed in some way, no matter how small or large that blessing might be.

    I love the photos, and I love the yin-yang effect they have with this post. :) That bird makes me want to sing for joy too!

  18. clairz Says:

    Hi, Beth. I’m back for a second comment on the same post, a record for me. I just read your profile and love it. Love it!!!

  19. Debi Kelly Van Cleave Says:

    Happy birthday Beth!

  20. Ginger Says:

    Nice post. Thanks for sharing. We are still in Winter’s Icy Grip! Hang in there. You have had plenty of legitimate gripes.

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