Soul Music

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I love music. It reaches into my soul and lifts my spirits. Some songs calm me and bring a sense of peace, some leave me encouraged and uplifted, while others energize me and cause my feet to tap and my head to bob without a conscious effort on my part.

Katrena at 9 months
Katrena at 9 months

Thankfully, I am surrounded by many kindred spirits. I married a man who is also a music lover. We are the parents who allowed and encouraged our children, and now our grandchildren, to play with musical toys and sing along with whatever music is playing.

I still have the little Fisher Price musically instruments, housed in a drum, my children played with when they were very young. The flute was Amy’s  instrument of choice while growing up, but I gave her ten month old son Elliot the cymbals last week while he was visiting. He grabbed them in his little hands and although he blinked repeatedly due to the noise, he continued to crash them together and bang them on the highchair tray. Glorious noise.

I brought the set with me while I was caring for the other six grandchildren several weeks ago. They wanted to have a parade. Lena, just like her mom, Amber, became the drum major, leading the procession around their farm, drums pounding, tambourine rattling, guitars screaming and cymbals crashing. I’m sure they could be heard quite a distance away. Although the youngest, six-month-old Judson, couldn’t march in the parade, he joined vocally as we watched from the sidelines.

We found in order for music to take a center part of our children’s life, they needed to be able to not only listen to it, but also to make it. Therefore, instruments occupy a lot of space in our house. Two pianos, a keyboard, a drum set, many guitar—real and toy, a bass, maracas, a tambourine and several violins are the ones most frequently in use. The kids are slowly learning how to play some of them. Isaac has an incredible sense of timing and he shares Katy’s great vocal ability, singing loudly and enthusiastically as Grandpa plays the bass and guitar.

Lena, Griffith and Sutton are quick to strum on Grandpa’s guitars when they come to visit. Lena showed so much interest in Grandpa’s guitar we gave her a child-size guitar for her birthday.Download oct 23,2015 045

As fun it is to play instruments, I feel the most important facet of music is the words that accompany the tunes. Children almost instantly memorize the words of the songs that grab their attention. I want to be sure the message is something that speaks words of truth, love and hope. When Katy and Isaac first moved into our home, they needed to continue the tradition of listening to the radio to fall asleep. They were used to the local rock station and often said, “But, Grandma, this is my favorite song,” when I turned off a song with very suggestive and/or lewd lyrics.

Soon the battle over which radio station would lull them to sleep ended as they began to enjoy, and then embrace, contemporary Christian music. They had been living with us for about a month when I realized the message was getting through and ministering to their wounded spirits. I often worked in the sewing room next to their bedroom after I tucked them in for the night. It saved me a lot of trips back up the stairs if they had difficulty settling down and falling asleep. As the music played softly I heard two sweet little voices sing the melody:

Christ is enough for me, Christ is enough for me,

Everything I need is in You, Everything I need.

I remember that day had been a hard one. Katy had struggled with the reality of her new life situation and Isaac’s two-year-old temper had been on display—repeatedly. Tears rolled down my face as I allowed their clear angelic voices to soothe my ravaged soul. It was truly soul music.

My prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of music to remind me of your grace and love and thank you for putting these little ones in my life to share that gift with me.

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The Gift of Encouragement

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Initially I was going to name this blog “Round Two,” but this is more like our third round of raising children. We started in 1979, and in the past thirty five years, opinions and techniques concerning child-rearing have changed many, many times.

I raised our children how my parents raised me. My Mom and Dad were loving but firm, with a definite set of rules. We were told what to do and expected to HP0006obey. My sister, two brothers and me knew those rules and knew the consequences of disobedience. “The Board of Education” was applied to our “seat of understanding”. Our spanks were never unexpected, or cruel. I knew my brothers and I earned the spanks we received. My sister was the good one in the family. She never disobeyed-honestly.

What I don’t remember was being complimented by my parents when I obeyed. Statements like, “Good choice” or “Thank you for obeying,” never came out of their mouths when we complied with their orders. I raised our children the same way when they were young. My husband, with his Masters of Education, often reminded me kids want attention. “They’ll take it however they can get it, negative or positive.” So as our children got older, we praised them a little more. “Good job,” and “I’m proud of you” was said more often, though I’m sure I missed many opportunities to encourage our kids.

It is now almost three decades since I’ve raised a two year old. I’ve been observing my daughter, Amber, mother of four, and some other young moms. I decided to follow their lead. And it works. It’s amazing how Isaac’s eyes light up when I praise him after he chooses to obey. And an extra bonus—I’ve noticed he‘s much more likely to comply the next time. The same can be said for Katrena. She absolutely glows and pulls us in close for a hug when we tell her we are proud of her. She also tries harder when we point out any chore she’s done well.

So these old dogs are learning some new tricks. It’s not easy. I have a lot old habits to break. Some days I remember to encourage and heap on praise and other days I fail miserably. Frustration with repeated disobedience and defiance puts meoct 1,2015 041 over the edge. I fail to find positive aspects of their behavior and it all falls apart. At that point I revert back to my old ways. Suffice it to say, I am not encouraging.

Then an incredible thing usually happens. I feel little arms around me and hear a sweet high voice. “I want to hold you,” is the plea. Tears follow. Mine more than theirs. We hug, we kiss and we apologize.

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And I try again.

I learned many years ago if you want to know what you sound like, listen to your kids. They usually repeat everything you say, with the same tone of voice and posture. I got that opportunity a few months ago. In a large public restroom. Isaac was in the stall with me when he loudly praised my efforts. “Good job, Grandma. That’s a good poopie.” I could hear snickers throughout the restroom. When the embarrassment faded I wondered if we had really encouraged him enough times that he would echo it back to me. Not long ago, he treated my husband to the same type of encouragement in the men’s room.

I guess we have.

My prayer: Dear God, Thank you for loving me regardless of my faults. Help me show the same unconditional love to my grandchildren. Remind me to use words of encouragement and focus on their positive attributes and accomplishments especially when I feel my efforts are futile.