Song in My Heart

What songs have you memorized?  For as long as I can remember, I have been collecting songs in my heart.   My sister Lynn gets credit for planting this seed in me.  She was 11 years my elder and used to sing me to sleep when I was just a little girl.  Her inspirations included folk artists such as Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, and Joni Mitchell.  When she came home for visits, she would teach my sister Hope and me new songs she had learned — both the melodies and the harmonies.  The sweet loving feelings of being sung to like this set an absolute goal in my mind.  I would memorize songs and I would sing my children to sleep.  Now, I sing songs to my grandson.  It calms him from fretful wakefulness into deep, sound slumber.  So, the seed Lynn planted, in addition to blessing my husband, has benefitted my sons’ and grandson’s lives as well.  Singing can start a legacy.

Over the years, I’ve realized what a rich blessing it is to have so many songs stored in my heart.  I have a 2-3 hour repertoire of memorized songs.  Anybody that goes on a road trip with me gets forewarned.  I will sing through the night as I drive.  Singing is actually a terrific way to stay awake when you are getting sleepy on the road.  I think singing memorized songs is more beneficial in this aspect than singing along with the radio.  There’s something about the pumping oxygen through your lungs and making your brain work to remember all the lyrics that energizes you.    Also, when you are driving an “older model vehicle” in which both the radio and the air conditioner no longer work and you can’t hear your phone/i-pod because leaving the windows down puts you in a wind tunnel, singing gives you a good alternative to pass the miles away — just sayin’.           Singing has its practical applications.

A good many of the songs in my heart are hymns and songs of praise.  This, I learned, adds an entirely new dimension to the benefits.  I have walked through a decades-long battle against depression, have had years of deep frustration, experienced times of great turmoil, and am given to holding bitterness in my heart.  Singing songs of worship to my God and King literally lifts me out of the quagmire.  Worshipful singing changes a broken or distressed heart.

There are times when I am so downcast I cannot lift my heart to sing.  It was a time such as this that God revealed the power of worship songs to me.  He nudged me to just sing (more of a somewhat melodious mumble) the first few words of a song I knew and loved.  With those first few words out, my voice strengthened.  Determinedly, I sang the next line … and the next.  Within minutes, I was singing with my heart and not just my tongue.  I think that was my first revelation of how powerfully this act could take control over despondency, anger and bitterness.  Even when facing odious household chores, I’ve found singing from my heart keeps me in the right frame of mind and prevents me from developing bitterness or self-pity.  Singing sets your heart in the right place.

Another time I remember, I was visiting my aged mother, tending to some tasks she needed doing while she sorted through things at her chair.  I had a song in my heart and I just started singing as I worked.  I glanced up to check on my mom after a bit and saw the sweetest smile on her face.  It wasn’t until I heard my own children making music that I understood how much that blesses a mother’s heart.  Singing can be a blessing to others.

This summer, we experienced a delightful time with old friends who apparently have learned similar lessons and carry their own store of songs in their hearts.  It was our third and final night at the campfire and somehow, over the weekend, I had become the campfire entertainment director.  The first night I had challenged the kids with naming our 50 states, and later the adults with naming capitals.  The second night we had a try at telling continuous stories.  On the third night, when 10-year-old Maddie asked, “Mrs. Franklin, what are we going to do tonight?”, I was running out of ideas, so I suggested we sing songs.  Sarah, a young woman with a lovely voice and the confidence to lead, began to sing songs that we’d all sung together over the years in church.  She had built up her repertoire because she had learned that singing old hymns was the best way to calm her agitated grandmother who is living with them and suffers from Alzheimer’s.  (It should be noted that Grandma much prefers the peppier hymns. ) For over two hours, we sang and harmonized from an oft-shared treasure trove of memorized worship songs.  When half-asleep, young Caleb was taken into bed, he turned back and muttered sleepily, “But keep singing, OK?”  Later, after we’d finished singing a heart-warming rendition of COME THY FOUNT, Maddie called out from the camper next to us, “Sing that one again!”  It is a sweet, memory.  I hope to recreate it with campfires in our yard.  Singing builds community.

In the last few hours before my dear sister Lynn passed away, we had gathered around her bed and sung her both songs of worship (celebrating our shared faith) as well as the songs she had taught my sister Hope and I.  It was such a beautiful experience that the family gathered around my dad’s bed on his last night here on earth and did the same.  Sadly, my mom’s death came suddenly when she was home alone.  We didn’t get to sing her off.  Thankfully though, my sister Hope had called me over to Mom’s one night because she was acting very strange and agitated, and Hope was afraid she was dying.  There were several times like this in my mom’s last year, so it wasn’t an automatic, “Get the family over here,” kind of thing.  Hope and I tucked Mom into bed, prayed with her and listened to her “If I die tonight…” instructions.  After that we looked at each other and mouthed, “Should we sing?”  We decided, last night or not, it would soothe our mother if we sang to her.  We started with the “Lynn songs” and moved into songs of worship and hope.  I am so grateful we had that time of lulling my mom to sleep weeks before the Lord brought her home.  Singing is a great way to say goodbye.

What songs are stored in your heart?

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Parenting and Home Schooling Goals: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Today I’m going to write a challenge to parents, particularly to home school parents, but it is applicable to all parents.  When we first started home schooling, nearly 3 decades ago, we were advised to write a mission statement, to remind us why we chose this route and to help us focus on our goals.  I’m not sure I ever did that, and probably it would have changed quite a bit over the years.  In its simplest form, it would have been to teach my sons to love learning.  To that end, I’ve definitely succeeded. 

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Some of the other goals I may have set – goals which conference speakers directly or indirectly encouraged us to seek – we didn’t reach.  There was a lot of perfection pressure in the home school community in decades past.  It’s still there to some degree, though the direction may have changed a little.  Ultimately, I found making these things my goals often hampered what I’ve come to hold as my most important goal and also put unfair expectations on my boys.  All this pressure to present the perfect picture can wrongly imply to your child that he isn’t good enough – will never be good enough.

I discovered some years back that I was starting to develop a “salvation through home schooling” mentality.  If I did everything right, my boys would embrace my values, love the Lord and live to please Him.  If I parented as well as I was supposed to, I could save my children from choosing sin.   Oh, I probably would never have admitted or even recognized that’s what I was doing, but when it came down to it, that’s what it was.  One of my mantras now is, “You can’t home school (parent) the sinful nature out of your children.”  That’s not your job, and it’s not possible.  If it were, we wouldn’t need the saving grace of God.  We wouldn’t need Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection to give us true salvation.

Anyway, I didn’t do everything right; I did a lot of things wrong.  For one thing, my boys grew up with a mom who struggled with, at times, debilitating depression.  Striving for perfection can often lead to depression, by the way.  It took some hard knocks to wake me up to what I was doing.  My husband once told me I had to quit trying to make our kids fit other people’s standards for them.  This too I vehemently denied and I deceived myself.  First I tore him down for not setting (“suitable”) standards for our children.  Then I beat myself up for not being able to model, much less convince my children to adopt, those standards.  I’m here to tell you, you can and should model Christ to your children; this should be our real focus and our constant prayer.  You can lead your children toward Christ, but how, when and even if they truly accept His grace is between them and Jesus.   They will make mistakes and they will force you to face your own mistakes.

I have watched decades of kids graduate from home schooling.  I have talked with dozens of moms distraught over the choices made and actions taken by their adult children.  It is hard to accept the brittleness of goals you put so much effort into achieving.  I have learned we were looking at the wrong goals.

And so I challenge the present generation of hard-working parents:

If you are doing this (home schooling / raising children) to raise saints for the Kingdom, that is a good and godly goal, but they may grow up to rebel.

If you are doing this for “social security” — that is, so your kids will be your friends, that is a lovely goal for your adult children (younger children need you at a different level), but they may walk away from you.

If you are doing this to raise an academic genius, it’s entirely possible they may end up being “average” students.

If you are doing this to proudly build a tower of success (shame on you) it will likely come tumbling down.

If you are doing this to knit your family tightly together, you may succeed, or it may all unravel.

If you are doing this to keep your children from the world, it may result in them clinging to the ways of the world with all their might.

If you are doing this to earn a badge of honor for yourself, you deserve a badge of shame.

If you are doing this to prove you can, you are always at risk of proving you can’t.

What do you do when you have poured all your energies into a goal which ultimately you have no control over?

There is, I have found, only one purpose for home schooling or everyday parenting of your children which is pretty much guaranteed to get the desired results.  That is, you are doing this as an exercise in love and obedience.  Every opportunity you take to love and obey is pretty much guaranteed to expand your ability to love and obey.  In the process, you will have very likely strengthened your family.  Honestly, who can ever have too much exercise in loving those given to us by God?  And who can ever claim they aren’t in need of practice in obeying the Lord? 


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To that end, I have found one response to parenting and home schooling challenges which always seems to work.  Love your children in such a way that they will know they are loved.  Whether they embarrass you, question you, defy you, hurt you – and they will — respond with love.  Read 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 if you need a reminder of what love looks like.  That chapter does not just apply to marriage, in fact, I believe it speaks more to how God loves us.  It is a model of how we ought to love one another.

If you have to cut off friendships that are hurting your relationship with your children, cut them off.  If you have to sacrifice some of your ideals, sacrifice them.  If loving your child means readjusting the goals you set for them, then do it.  When your child needs correcting, let it be given with love, not anger.

When it comes to the “schooling” part of home schooling, love is what drives you to seek the right approach to help your child understand.  Love is what enables you to ask for help when you need it.  Love is what gives you the strength and ability to make the sacrifices required.  Love is what brings you to your knees in prayer to understand, build, strengthen and enable that child.

Read great books to your children.  Teach them the math, science and grammar skills they’ll need.  Teach them history, handwriting and health.  Teach them to love God, their family, their country.  Teach them the life skills they will need and teach them to give of themselves.  But also, be sure to teach their hearts to dance.   Teach them to laugh and sing and hug.  Listen to their heart.  Recognize their strengths and come alongside them in their weaknesses.  They are not your trophies; they are your gift and your responsibility.

When all is said and done, it is near impossible for your child to succeed in life and happiness if they don’t believe they are loved. 

hearts7

Resolutions Can Be Fun

NYE - sisters

The Z Sisters Celebrating New Year’s Eve

Being a bit slow on the draw, I’m not usually ready by New Year’s Eve to make resolutions, plans or goals for the coming year. Seriously folks, I’m still in recovery mode from Christmas at that point. So be it. I’m trying to clear away the cobwebs now and make a plan for this new year that has fallen upon me. Of course there are the usual “wishes” — eat healthier, more exercise, drop oodles of weight. I DO want to do those things but I have an issue with confusing discipline with punishment. Perhaps that’s something I can work on this year — reprogramming my brain to truly believe that adding disciplines is a form of helping (even loving?) myself rather than the punishment I conceive it to be. But for now, I want to set some goals that I really look forward to putting into action — things that will represent a life change and not just a one year commitment.

A few years back, having been inspired by the movie “Julie and Julia”, I set a New Year’s goal to try a new recipe every week. That was quickly altered to 52 new recipes in 2010. And yes, I did have to make about 10 recipes that final week of the year to meet that goal but meet it I did. This was probably the first time I followed through on a New Year’s resolution and it opened my eyes to the fact that resolutions can be really fun!

In more recent years, I’ve focused on a few more areas in my life that needed changing. I don’t remember if they were New Year changes or just mid-year revelations but I found it took about a year of exercising them before they started to become reflexive.

First off, I determined to be more open and flexible to accept the blessings God has offered to me through allowing Him to work through me. This meant working toward not waking up with a rigid agenda for my day.  It meant adding more margin to my life — a good topic for another post.  It meant waking up with a plan, but being open to altering it without complaint when the phone rang with a need, or someone in my home needed to focus on restoration instead of tasks. It meant adding the phrase, “Why not?” to my thought process. This is a continuing work in progress, but one that has added incredible depth to my life. It was the seed that began to germinate and grow into this blog.

NYE - Margie

My mom celebrated her 89th New Year’s Eve with us.

Ironic as it may be,  just as I’m in the middle of writing this, I got a phone call. This one was a sister-in-law saying she would take care of checking in on my mom for me this bitter cold afternoon which frees me up to stay cuddly and warm a few more hours and allows me to finish this post. Being flexible to what God has planned for my day has also made me much more willing to except these blessings as he opens up time I didn’t think I’d have. If you know me well, you know it’s a near miraculous change in my heart which allows me to accept help.

Moving on … At one point, God spoke to my heart and told me He didn’t ask me to fix or control the situation, but only to love the people he placed in my life. (The seedling to the sub-heading of this blog — “Love the ones God gives you.”) This has brought some healing and restoration to close relationships in my life.   God continues to bring people into our lives that can benefit from the spontaneous type of hospitality we have to offer, and this has greatly enriched our home. Making this change in my heart was a crucial step in strengthening my soul to be able to strong-arm my depression into submission. And guess what! It’s way more enjoyable to share love than condemnation. Who knew?

Last year, as a New Year determination, I decided to take action when a friend or I said, “We really need to get together.” Realizing how frequently that phrase is tossed about, and how seldom it is followed through, I determined when I came upon it I was going to follow it up with setting up a time and place. I know that is not a measurable goal. We are not supposed to say, “I am going to do more of …”; we are supposed to say something like, “I will reconnect with 10 friends this year.” That type of defined goal has it’s place, but I wasn’t looking for a checkoff list here. I was looking more toward the live life intentionally type of thing. For me, it worked. Looking back, I had many long and enjoyable walks and lunches with family and friends in 2014 because of this determination. So, I’m not going to check that off and move on now, I’m going to continue to make relationships a priority in this way, but I’m ready to add another aspect to my live life intentionally plan.

This will be a change of seasons year for me. I will be completing my 26 year career of home schooling my sons and possibly looking at an empty nest by this time next year.  Of course, this opens me up to the opportunity to pursue “career” options which might even provide an income.  (Oh!  The thought of having a second income!)  It also frees me up to consider ways in which I might minister to others.  It will be a year of deep reflection and considerations.  There will be time for that.

For now, this is what lies on my heart:

First – I want to be more intentional about offering appreciation.  This too is a topic for another post, but to sum it up, I am SO wary of pretentious flattery, that I often neglect genuine appreciation.  I’ve been becoming increasingly aware at how hard it is to WANT to bless someone who never appreciates what you do.  This is a lesson I want to change in our family dynamics and one which I’d like to pass on to the next generations.  I will start with working on it myself.

Secondly – I like traditions. They lay the foundations for memories. But, if you just keep adding traditions, they will soon become prison bars. Often, when people try something new, and it turns out to be fun, they want to add it to the traditions. Thus variety becomes monotony. Now, whenever we get together, or whenever we celebrate this event, we will add this activity or eat this food. My siblings, sibs-in-law and I  had an in-depth discussion on this topic. This is a tough nut to crack with my extended family as they are notorious for wanting to make everything a tradition. My sons tried to get me to understand the flaw in this thinking a couple of years ago and it has taken me a lengthy amount of time chewing this cud before I was really able to digest it. I think I’ve got it now and I want to approach this year with an intentionality* to add variety without making the variety a new obligation or … dare I say it? … to replace some of the old traditions with new ones?  (*My reference tools tell me “intentionality” is not a word; it should be a word.) The sibs/sibs-in-law discussion came to the conclusion that switching up what foods we bring to the holidays might be within reason, but everybody, including myself, jumped all over my brother-in-law when he suggested we could switch up who hosted each of the holidays. One step at a time.

God bless your new year.  I’ll be sharing where this season-changing year takes me as it unfolds.  Please share what you are actively working on changing in your life.

— Beth

Amusement and Tears

Bay Beach 2012

Raising children has done more to help me understand the love of my heavenly Father than anything else in life.  Now it is my six year old grandson Dylan who continues teaching me these lessons.  One day this summer, the two of us had a wonderful afternoon at a kiddie amusement park.  Toward the end of the day we went into the dining area for a slice of pizza and, as it turns out, to be awed by the enticing array of arcade games along the walls.  After my grandson finished his pizza, he did like his uncles before him had done and played the video games a’ la imagination (It’s free that way. J ).  After he’d had a sufficient amount of time to bask in the glory of pretending he was actually playing the games, I looked up and saw him with a gun in his hands pointed at a screen full of dead people.   Hmmmm… not the best fare for a young boy to be taking in.  As I was walking over to tell him it was time to go, I noticed a candy crane game, which he loves.  So I went up to Dylan and said, “This is really a yucky sort of game and I don’t want you playing it.  It’s time to go but I will let you have one time at the candy crane.”   He greatly resisted leaving his game; in fact I had to pry his little fingers off the gun.  As I was pulling him away from the game I told him, “Of course, if you aren’t going to come when I tell you, we will skip the candy crane.”  A second later he wrenched his hand out of mine and scooted back to the killing people game.  I took his hand, and dragged him out explaining that the candy crane was no longer an option, just as I’d warned him.

Here’s where it struck him that there were consequences for his disobedience and he began to rebel against that idea.  He dragged. He cried out. He pouted.  Then he began with his bargaining… er…demanding.  It went something like this.  “I’m not going with you until you let me play the candy crane!  … I’m not going to do anything you say if you don’t let me play the candy crane!  … I won’t go back to the hotel with you even!  … or even eat supper! … ”    Throughout all this, I calmly interjected that really he had no control over any of those things, that he got INTO this problem by not doing what I said and if he continued to not listen to me, he’d probably have more problems to deal with.   I took him to the car so he could finish his tantrum away from the public eye and he was now sitting in his car seat vainly trying to find an angle that would work for him.  He was really rather comical as he tried to convince me he was the one in control.  After I’d decided there had been enough verbal fencing, I chose to just ignore his pleas and accusations.  We were still in the same car together, I’d obviously not left him, BUT I left him alone to his own devices until he had exhausted them.  Turns out he exhausted himself.  After several minutes passed sans back seat chatter I turned around to see him fast asleep.  Well our time at the amusement park was over.  He was unaware that he missed out on more fun.  I gave away the remaining ride tickets I had purchased and somebody else received the blessings that were meant for Dylan.

Isn’t that a fine picture of how we sometimes interact with God?  “You have not given me what I wanted, so … I’m not going to ask for your help now… I’m not exactly speaking to you actually… I’ll just do this without you…”  Do we believe God has really left us all alone when he quietly quits interacting with us  and waits for us to come to the end of our own devices?  I wonder how many blessings we have missed because we stubbornly turned away from God’s plan for us.