(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.”