The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: A Perfect Description of the Past Week

This week has been some week. Seriously, a week of extremes, in circumstances, emotional reactions, and spiritual responses; a week of utter failures and amazing victories. Care to know what happened? Here it goes!

THE BAD

How about we call it, a series of unfortunate events, too many to list. Among others:

  • While the family was out enjoying Christmas activities last Sunday evening, the adorable, cuddly Bosco (the pony-sized puppy which has been living in our house the past two weeks) managed to wreak havoc by plentifully peeing on our rug, eating massive amounts of chocolate cake which in turn produced profuse diarrhea, and drinking out of the toilet bowl (I’ll spare you the details). Two days ago, I came home to chewed up carpet, because, what is more fun to a puppy than tearing up the carpet, of course.
  • On Monday, while getting ready to go out and do some last minute grocery shopping before Christmas, and while trying to maintain enough self-control to not kill the adorable, cuddly Bosco, I heard the loud crying of my oldest daughter who had twisted her ankle outside and was now not able to walk from pain, resulting in a trip to the emergency room. (This run-on sentence describes the run-on emotional toil on my already overflowing cup). Oh, and, get this, while preparing to rush Lizette to the hospital, the puppy bolted out of the house, happily galloping at the speed of sound, while all the kids (except the injured one) ran after him like mad people all over the neighborhood, to the amusement of our neighbors. At the hospital we discovered Lizette had injured ligaments and would then begin a period (which has not ended) of immobilization of the leg, as well as the use of crutches. I do not recommend crutches in a split level home….
  • My original plan was to have a peaceful Tuesday: I would take time to prepare and organize my music, as I was leading the choir for our church and we would have our dress rehearsal that evening. I would also begin my preparations for our Christmas Eve dinner, cooking some, wrapping gifts, and cleaning the house. But then life happened and my Tuesday looked nothing like I had pictured it. It was rainy and cold, and I was out purchasing pain killers, doing the shopping I had not gotten done the previous day, and dealing with relational and emotional, family issues. So I panicked. Yes, I totally panicked. And what do I do when I panic? I pass it on to the husband and the kids, of course. But more on that on the “UGLY” chapter… (how’s that for a transition?)

THE UGLY

Here’s where it gets really good. You see, ugly is so ugly. As I was saying, panic, and worry, combined with perfectionism and pride, make the ideal recipe to, well, let’s say, kill the Christmas spirit. It began on Tuesday as I started anticipating I would not be ready for Christmas Eve. I transferred this pressure to my family (oh, and did I mention that my lovely, future daughter-in-law has been visiting us and watching me in “action” this whole week?). I wish I could blame my hormonal changes. But even though hormones can (and probably do) accentuate my emotional responses, they are not to blame for the sin that so reigned in my heart, putting my family in great distress. After my initial mini-fit on Tuesday, I told myself I would have a good, peaceful day on Wednesday. I got up that morning with a new resolve to be positive and stable. Ha! My “good” attitude lasted for most of the day, until BOOM, I completely lost it! I’m talking hyperventilation, anger, frustration, and worst of all, blaming and shaming. My family had been nothing but helpful and cooperative all day. But the enemy of my soul knew where to get me. A comment. A look. A tone. An unfinished task. A feeling of being out of control. Fear of failure. Pride. You name it!

And so just as our family was leaving the house to go to church, where I would lead the choir in the entire service of Lessons and Carols, in “joyful” celebration of the birth of our savior, I was acting more like a dog with rabies than a daughter of God. I arrived at church in distress and in tears. I then proceeded to lay guilt on my sweet daughter, who had been so loving towards me all day. The choir assembled in the appropriate room at the previously assigned time, ready for their warm-up. I did not show up on time, but walked in 10 minutes late, still red-eyed, as I barely composed myself to lead them in a short warm-up. My incredible sinful attitude was being displayed for all to see, and I needed to get a grip within the next 12 minutes.

THE GOOD

Praise the Lord, the good outweighs the bad and the ugly! The only reason it outweighs it, is because the good comes, not from me, but from God himself. He is perfectly good, and kind enough to shower his children with goodness, not once or twice, but always.

  • Grace: I am a recipient of it. Everyone who saw me at church on Christmas Eve knew I was not well. But every single one of them smiled, said a helpful word, and encouraged me. There wasn’t a single complaint, even if well deserved, but even as I walked in late, I was greeted by happy, forgiving faces and patient hearts.
  • Forgiveness: Boy, did I have to ask for it! Sitting at the table on Christmas Day I asked my family to forgive me, and was blessed by their immediate willingness to do so, without reservation.
  • Rescue: I don’t know how I led the choir on Christmas Eve. Honestly, my mind was only present half of the time. But the service was not about me. It was about Jesus and the goodness and love He displayed so openly by leaving his rightful place in heaven to become a human being. So God took care of it. He enabled the choir to sing their hearts out, he helped me to not be lost or make mistakes, and in the end, He received the attention and the glory, the way it was meant to be.
  • Love and friendship: Despite the disaster earlier in the day, our Christmas Eve dinner was lovely. Our family was happy to share this time with wonderful friends. The food was amazingly delicious. The caroling around the piano was uplifting and sweet, and the joy of God was evident. He had compassion for me and gave me what my heart so deeply desired, even though I did not deserve it.
  • Prayer: Our need has been greater, so prayer has increased. The ability to pray is a gift from God. Because Jesus was born in a manger and grew up to become the sacrifice for our sins, our Passover Lamb, we now have full access to him! We pray and he listens! It’s quite amazing. Not only has our family prayed more, but I have been specifically touched and encouraged by Lizette’s prayers. You see, she has gone years without praying… or believing in God. But God has begun a great work of inward transformation in her. At every turn this week, Lizette was the first to say, “Let’s pray”. No amount of bad or ugly can outweigh the joy of hearing her words and seeing her heart being poured out to God in faith and trust. Isn’t God good and merciful?

Today has been quiet, happy, and peaceful. Bosco is still alive and, somehow, still here (It’s a Christmas miracle). We are learning to keep him away from food and toilet bowls. This morning Lizette, Geneva, and I prayed and laid hands on him so that God would help him as well ;). We are eating delicious left-overs and Lizette’s pain is not as intense any more.

Elise and Bosco. Cute, right?

Elise and Bosco. Cute, right?

With my 3 daughters on Lizette's birthday, last Friday

With my 3 daughters on Lizette’s birthday, last Friday

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It’s a gift!

Singing with my boys

Singing with my boys

There is something so deeply entrenched in our souls that makes us, the human race, sing. I’m not sure how it works, but I know, from experience and from observation, that singing is a natural, instinctual even, response and overflow of our emotions. We don’t teach people to sing in the same way we don’t teach them to walk or smile. They just do. It’s simply a part of life: A gift from our maker.

Yes, there are factors which contribute to better or worst singing (I’m a voice teacher, I should know) but in the end, whether in key or out of key, trained or untrained, in company or alone, we allow our feelings to surface as we sing or as we listen to the singing of others.

Do you have legs that work? Then walk! Who am I to tell you that my walking is prettier than yours? Sure, some of us can use our legs for marathons while others simply to transport us a few feet, but if they move, they move. I get it, I basically stink at drawing (my father’s visually artistic genes skipped a generation, apparently), but I refuse to let that stop me while playing Pictionary. I will draw, even if badly, because I have hands that work and eyes that see. So why not sing? We have a built-in instrument that goes with us wherever we go and that requires simply the flow of air and the opening of our mouths. Yes, yes, you don’t need to point out that some singing sounds, well, less than pretty, painful even, but if God intended for only some of us to sing, then He would have given only some of us the vocal folds to do it.

So, why sing? Because you can. And because it’s healing and affirming and all around fantastic. Sing when you are happy and filled with energy; sing with others around a campfire and feel the bond of frienship; sing when you are depressed and in need of a good cry; sing when you’re in love; sing in the shower, you’ll enjoy the acoustics; sing when you worship God, in your car and in your church, and while you vacuum your house. Sing because you can, and because it allows you to feel and to let it all out.

I teach music for a living and I lead the choir at my church. I constantly meet people who believe they can’t sing (when they can.) Such belief usually comes from a time in childhood when they were told by others that they didn’t have a good voice. I have met countless of people who refuse to open their mouths to sing because they are convinced they can’t do it. What a horrible shame. I am not saying that everyone has a pretty voice or that everyone has musical talent. What I am saying is that everyone should sing. Period.

Parents, let’s never tell our kids that they can’t sing! Instead, encourage them. Sing them to sleep when they are babies, sing along to children’s songs with nursery rhymes, sign them up for choirs and music classes in school and after school. If they have a passion for singing, do everything in your means to help them develop their voice and treat it safely, not to obtain fame and wealth (even though that does happen in some cases), but to have longevity in their voice, to bless others, to create songs and record them, and to sing to their kids and grand kids.

Singing is good. And fun.

Only some of us will be professional musicians and singers. Only some of us will be cast in shows or hired as soloists or selected for a band. That should be expected. But singing is not only for the professionals. It’s a gift from God to all of mankind. So sing and worship and cry and laugh, because that what singing is for.