Making Joyful Noises

Our family is very fond of music. Almost always there is music playing. During school, making dinner, going to sleep, working outside, you name it, we probably do it while listening to music, or at least singing. Broadway has always been my favorite genre. However, when I'm "where I need to be", spiritually speaking, I crave godly music.

One may ask, does the type of music we listen to really matter? I believe it does. Mankind is an emotional creature, and, at least for me, music is a massive influence. When I'm down, stressed, tired or excited, or worried, or hurting, or joyful, or in a song-in-my-heart mood, I play piano or sing. Sometimes both. (And sometimes I even do a little dance--but if you bring that up, I'll deny it!) So, in short, our almost-200-year-old baby grand has gotten to know my fingertips intimately. Music can sympathize with the soul on an subconscious level (quite literally) thus effecting our emotional responses. Music can lift up or drag down. Because man was made to glorify God, and music is one way to bring Him glory, one may conclude that man was made for music.

But so was Satan. More than being made for musical ability (as man is) Satan was a musical instrument. It was a part of his literal being.
" ...the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. "- Ezekiel 28: 13
Obviously, when in perfection, this ability was used for the praise of God. But, as with all other God-honoring things, he has perverted them to bring his own glory. We must be discerning. In reality, anything that doesn't bring honor to God is dishonoring. This is tough to swallow, I know. Especially if you think you  are listening to "harmless" and "fun" music. But I have found that when I listen to music that isn't specifically God-honoring, I feel...well... grimy. Try it. See if you go back.

There are many ways to make joyful noises. The catbirds in their nest outside my bedroom window make joyful noise every single morning, rain or shine, starting about 5-something AM. Not that I'm usually up that early... My brothers make joyful noises when they're tussling each other on the hill beside our house or riding their bikes down said hill as fast as possible. Our family's 6 piece orchestra makes joyful noises. Our late pastor used to say " if you can't sing good, sing loud." and he practiced what he preached...

But let's stick to music so as not to complicate things.

Joyful noises don't have to be on key or even on-tune. Like singing a lullaby to a baby. They don't care how you sound- it's just soothing to hear your voice. Think of it this way- we're God's children, right? Who doesn't like to hear kids singing? When the church's progeny are up front around Christmas belting out Silent Night, who cares if their all on the same note/word/song at the same time? Except for the frustrated music directors, no one cares. Especially not the proud Mums and Dads.

Do yourself a favor--Wherever you find yourself today, sing a song. Hum a little. Let a spring come to your step. Blare a hymn out your car windows on the highway. Belt out a favorite you haven't sung for a while.  Let loose of the reigns for a bit. Just praise the King.

Or better yet, praise Him with a friend.

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.-Psalm: 34:1-3


Two Questions

All the people who read here also read my Mom's blog, and most read my sister's-both of whom are much better at staying on top of things than yours truly. Therefore, by now, you are all probably well informed of Addison's latest miracle story of last week. So, I will be as brief as I can while still covering the general gist.

For the last three weeks, Henry had become less alert, more lethargic, which came to a head last Monday when mom had a hard time waking him up from his nap (not normal-this kid is like clockwork). He'd also been doing this odd little movement where his left side appeared to collapse for a half-second. Then he'd recover and seem fine. These "drops" became more frequent and sudden, and usually occurred at certain points throughout the day. Mom described this to his physical therapist, thinking it was muscular, and she thought seizures and recommended we see his doctor. So Mom called his geneticist, who said she thought it was indeed seizures, and to bring him to Children's Intl. Hospital right away for an EEG.

Five whirlwind minutes later, I was master of the house, and we were all in a well-what-do-we-do-now? mindset. So we did what all good Italians do under stress. We ate lunch. Pa and Mom sent word later that the CIH was keeping Henry overnight for the EEG, and resourceful, level-headed Brianna fixed an overnight bag for the three of them. Our gracious house guest proved to be a true friend in time of need, pitching in and lending a hand when- and where-ever needed (such as hauling the 8 of us into the can and driving the 1-1/2 hours into DC for us to visit Henry and the Parental Unit).

During rounds the next morning, Henry's EEG was read and the hypsarrhythmia confirmed seizures and a diagnosis of West Syndrome- a very rare form of Infantile Epilepsy. In typically developing children, there is an underlying cause for such seizures. However, in children with Down Syndrome, they really don't have any trigger/cause whatsoever. The 12 neurologists that studied him that morning prescribed a steroid to stop the seizures and an ulcer med to spare the lining of his poor stomach the pain of being eaten through by the actual medication. Yeah, some pretty harsh stuff.

However, in all this, there were still many overwhelming blessings:

  1. Henry's PT was able to come on a work day, on such short notice just to check up on him-an hour's drive out of her way.
  2. His geneticist was able to accurately diagnose him over the phone.
  3. The hospital was able to schedule the EEG for that same night, so he could spend the minimum amount of time there.
  4. No brain damage occurred from the seizures.
  5. The very Down Syndrome that makes his every day harder actually saved him from a more serious outcome. Also, the Doctors told Pa and Mom that children with DS respond to the meds better.
  6. All of his unresolved swallowing issues have not prevented him to be able to take his oral medications.
  7. God arranged for our from-out-of-town-friend to be staying with us at just the right time.
  8. Not one but two friends brought us meals (no cooking!) and even more flooded us with encouraging texts, offers for help/rides and a few if-you-need-anything-and-I-mean-anything-you-just-call offers.
  9. One of his nurses just transferred to neurology from the cardiology dept., where she attended Addison's friend, Madion's, three heart surgeries.
And there are loads more.

So, Henry came home and started the meds. One week, to the day, later, and his seizures are few and far between.

But something else started happening. He slowed down even more. His light seemed to go out. He became even less alert. He wanted to do nothing but lie on your shoulder and suck his thumb. Therapy became a thing of the past. He lost interest in everything. He stopped smiling altogether. 

And then, two days ago, I realized that I miss him. I miss Addison.

It's like he's trapped inside, lost under this tired, sad, fussy baby,

It breaks my heart.

The doctors are sure that within 3 months, tops, he'll be off the meds, and back to normal. It's a hope to cling to, but from this place, it looks like a long, bitter road. Like I wrote before, I've got to continue to let him go every day. It's been tough.

A wise friend told me this past week that when these things happen, we must ask ourselves two questions:

1- Is God Sovereign?
2- Is God Good?

Of course, was my instant mental reply,  of course He's Sovereign and Good. But since that moment, those questions kept reappearing. 

Now, at first, this next statement will sound almost sacrilegious, but stick with me for a moment. I believe it's good to question our faith. Hang in there a second, okay? I'm not saying it's okay to question God. But it is okay to ask questions of Him: He always answers. But you have to have the right question.

If you only ask for answers, you're likely to be as frustrated as the spokesmen for Sages, Astronomers, Philosophers and Other Professional Thinking Persons were at Deep Thought's answer to life, the universe and everything: 42. Some have this theological bee in their bonnet about asking God questions. As if, when a hurting person asks "Father, why?", God would pop out of somewhere and thunder out: HOW DARE YOU QUESTION ME AND MY WAYS!  In actuality, God says, "Come now, and let us reason together"(Is.1:18) and "My thought are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways." (Is. 55:8) That doesn't sound angry, but inviting. 

Take Job, for instance. He's known the world over as the righteous man who lost everything and never questioned God. But the book of Job is chock full of questions asked of God. Then, after 37 chapters of questions (from Job) and debates (Job's 4 friends) God shows up, and from the whirlwind, tells Job not what he thought he wanted to know, but what God knew he needed to hear. And it wasn't the answers. In fact, it was a boatload of questions. God asks him questions like, "where were you when I called the earth into existence?" and "can you invent, let alone, make from dust, such magnificent beings as behemoth and leviathon?" "are you this powerful?" Instead of saying "Job, I let this happen to you because_fill in the blank_". No, not at all. He showed Job how Sovereign He really is.

In two of my blackest moments, God made sure they happened on a clear night, and put me outside where I could see His stars. And by marveling that God created all of the amazing constellations just for man to look at (they serve no other scientific purpose that I know of) I learned that He is Sovereign. In everything that has happened with Addison so far, we've had many trials. But the testimony of miracles He's done through those trials has far outweighed any negativity. And by focusing on those positives, we train our mind to trust Him. He's done it before, He'll do it again.

Is God Good? Oh, yes. In all I've been through (and I'm not even talking about other people's testimonies, just by own) God has been good.

And just this morning, during therapy, Henry was more alert than he has been in almost a month. Not one seizure so far today. And Aedan got him to smile. Maybe, just maybe, God knows what He's doing after all.

Lately I've been looking back, along this winding road
To the old familiar markers of the mercies I have known.
I know it may sound simple, but it's more than a cliche-
There's no better way to tell you, than to say-
God's been good
In my life.
I feel blessed beyond my wildest dreams
As I go to sleep each night.
And though I've had my share of hard times,
I wouldn't change them if I could,
'Cause through it all-
God's been good.

 Times replay and I can see that I've cried some bitter tears.
But I felt His arms around me, as I faced my greatest fears.
You see I've had more gains than losses- I've known more joy than hurt.
As His grace rolled down upon me, undeserved.
God's been good
In my life.
I feel blessed beyond my wildest dreams
As I go to sleep each night.
And though I've had my share of hard times,
I wouldn't change them if I could,
'Cause through it all-
God's been good.

For God has been my Father, my Savior, and my Friend.
His love my my beginning, and His love will be my end.
I could spend forever trying to tell you everything He is.
But the best way I can say it, is this:
God's been good
In my life.
I feel blessed beyond my wildest dreams
As I go to sleep each night.
And though I've had my share of hard times,
I wouldn't change them if I could,
'Cause through it all-
God's been good.
-Legacy 5's God's Been Good 


Saturday Morning...Coffee Anyone?

Anyone who's taken even one step across our threshold has been offered at least one cup of coffee. We're proud of our home brew and readily serve it up nearly constantly. One friend after spending one day with us went home and commented "they drink coffee all the time." *best Maxwell Smart impression* "And. Loving it."  Seriously, we're Italians and, consequently, believe that there is a right and wrong way to brew coffee and that we are the inventors of the right way. Call us snobs. We prefer our coffee to Starbucks and even travel with our espresso machine and beans. A little over-the-top? Definitely. But that's who we are. Brianna likes to say we put the "fun" in dysfunctional. :) But that's beside the point. The point is this: coffee is one way we show hospitality. When we hand you a cuppa joe, we're handing you a wee bit of our life, our hearts, our time. And as those three things are more important to us than coffee, that means a lot.

Hospitality should pinch. You can't show love with out sacrifice, so if you aren't giving 'til it hurts, you aren't giving enough. From an extremely young age, my Mother taught us the value of opening your home and heart to guests. As a girl, I remember Mom hosting dinners, teas, luncheons, snacks, babysittings, Bible studies etc. Many a night passed with someone (or multiple someones) crashing in our living room. For more details, ask Mom. And never have I heard her complain of having people in. Most of my friends live states away from us, and most have come for multiple-night visits, sometimes on pretty short notice. And she jumps at the idea every single time with a fervor that rivals my brother Sam (and anyone who knows Sam understands how fervent that really is!). 

The definition of hospitality is "the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers." Abraham is the most famous for his hospitable treatment of 3 strangers, Christ and two angels, that came unexpectedly:

And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it.And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.

So, the great Patriarch-to-be approached strangers, ran here and there to and fro to fix them
a meal and fetch water and only after they were comfortable and fed did they open up the subject of why the
men were there. Hospitality first, business second. Note also that Abraham RAN ( he was enthusiastic) and that ABRAHAM ran. (not Sarah- it's not just the ladies' job to entertain).

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm proud to be an Italian, and according our Mediterranean heritage if you fail to entertain a guest and feed them until they can't eat any more than it is a shame on you and your entire household. No person should pass out through your door frame hungry, tired, stressed or empty. 

And that doesn't just apply to food.

Hospitality can be both physical and spiritual, and the two can be totally separate, but, like coffee and chocolate, are better together. And there's a very good reason. Your guest may turn out to be a blessing to you, like Abraham's visitors, (see Hebrews 13:2) or they may be someone who needs a blessing from you. That brusque church visitor may be going through a serious loss. That reserved neighbor may be insecure in their identity. That young Christian that's not quite up to standard may be fighting some serious temptations. That pastor may be in a valley of depression.

Another good reason to constantly be the touchstone of hospitality--your guest may be Christ! No, I'm not being sacrilegious. Jesus Himself said so in Matthew 25: 35-40:

I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Wow. So, next time a guest comes in unexpectedly, or is ungracious, or isn't helpful, remember this: God put them in your path for a reason. They may need some encouragement only you can give. A little hospitality goes a long way.

Here's a little something special to serve to your guests next time they're over:

Espresso Frappicino:

1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups chilled espresso
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons instant coffee
 in a blender.
Add 6-8 ice cubes, blend until smooth.
Pour into two glasses.
Top with whipped cream.
Add a straw and serve!
Makes 2 cups.


Let it Go

As you probably know, Addison spent 2 days at Children's National Hospital, and was officially diagnosed with Infantile Epilepsy. When we first heard that the "dropping" that he was doing on his left side was mostly likely to be a seizure, I started to have one of those firstborn moments. Any firstborn will understand what I mean. All the little people below you are your responsibility to protect, nurture, shield. If something hits them it's a direct hit to you. You've failed to keep them safe. One truth I've had to re-learn almost every day for every sibling is just this: I can't protect them all the time; I can only place them in God's extremely capable hands (He created them after all) and step back, supporting them, encouraging them and otherwise generally staying out of their way. Since Pa and Mom made a hurried departure Monday afternoon, I'd been...off. Quiet (which is NOT me), a bit, well, reserved. The truth is, a terrible amount of stress was on me. (Now that this is over I tell you, but at the time I would've denied it.) I tried all the "quick fixes" that had helped me in the past: piano playing, singing (even though my voice is currently non-existent), reading, laundry, brainless activity, etc.

But nothing worked.

A thoughtful friend stuck around all day to help out, then drove the whole gang to DC to visit Henry. Seeing him in his wires and IV didn't help any. We got home very late, and went straight to bed. The next morning I woke to cloudy skies. And the first thought to hit my head was a still small voice reminding me of a practice I'd half forgotten about. Whenever I'm struggling with something that seems overwhelming, I turn to one of my favorite Psalms, and, that morning, God kept told me to read Psalm 116. After putting on the coffee, I sat down with my Bible, pen and legal pad. And was astounded by what I read. You know those moments where you know something to be true you just sort of, well, forgot? It was one of those moments. Here's what it says:

I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.Psalm 116:1-9
Okay, now here's what jumped off the page at me.

  • In verses 1 & 2, David writes that God "hath heard...hath inclined His ear". Note the past tense. This had all happened before. God had heard David's cries before, and thus, he knew God would hear him again.
  • Verse 3- this guy is in some serious turmoil.
  • But in verse 4 he tells us that he besought (basically begged) God to deliver his soul. To deliver his soul. Why the bold type? Okay, try to follow me here a minute. Our being consists of three parts: Body, Soul and Spirit. Our Body is the physical element, our Spirit is, well, spiritual, and our Soul is our Mind, Will and Emotions (thus, our feelings/decisions/thought processes). David is, therefore, asking God, not to deliver his body from his present circumstances, but to deliver his mind from its own wanderings, it's inner-overwhelming-ness. 
  • "Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful." If I'd had any doubt after the last 4 verses that God had this all in hand, then this was the clincher. When going through a harrowing experience, a nightmare in the daytime, the words gracious, righteous and merciful are not the first adjectives/attributes that come to my mind. Not that I believe that He's anything less than that. But one tends to let fear steal it's clammy, cold, firm hands around your mind, and that drives out everything else. But once God I realized that this verse was not accidentally stuck in the middle of David's plea for help, I just...got it. Ya know? Just simply got it. 
But it doesn't end there:
  • In verse 6, David tells us that God preserves the simple... (not "simple" as in ignorant- those who come to Him simply--remember the faith as a child.)
  • And then, my favorite verse:
P.S.: this is a big wallpaper size when opened up, so, feel free. If you need a custom size, shoot me a line.
Resting in the Lord should be easy. Just as most of our Christian walk ought to be. But we've been over that. Giving our struggles to God should be a natural response. Life hands us the lemons, we hand it over to the lemonade-maker of all time. The One Who will work all things together for good. (Rom.8:28) This is one of the many things that gets easier every time we make the conscious effort to just do it already. The first step is simple LET IT GO!

Before this was an incredibly popular Disney hit, it was a contemporary Christian song recorded by Tenth Avenue North. Originally I was going to do a side-by-side comparison of the conflicting messages between the two songs. Maybe I will in a later post. But for now, the lyrics. To the former, since everyone already knows the words to Frozen's version... :)

I've been holding on so tight
Look at these knuckles
They've gone white
I'm fighting for who I wanna be
I'm just trying to find security

But You say let it go, 
You say let it go
You say life is waiting for the one's who lose control
You say you will be, everything I need
You said if I lose my life it's then I'll find my soul-
You say let it go.

Well it's hard enough to hear
Harder still, to move beyond this fear
We know there's nothing I can bring,
So tell me what do you want from me?

But You say let it go, 
You say let it go
You say life is waiting for the one's who lose control
You say You will be, everything I need
You said if I lose my life it's then I'll find my soul
You say let it go, 
You say let it go.

What do I love?
What do I hate?
What will I lose?
What will I gain?
How do I save my soul?
What if I bend?
What if I break?
What will it cost?
What will it take?
For you to save my soul.

You say let it go, 
You say let it go
You say life is waiting for the one's who lose control
You say You will be, everything I need
You said if I lose my life it's then I'll find my soul

You say let it go.

I will never look at Psalm 116 the same way again. Don't you love it when God throws something you think you know inside out into a different light and you realize you've never seen it that way before and that you don't know it as well as you did? (please pardon my run-on) It had never ceased to amaze me how often I read a scripture and see it a whole different way.

Side note aside, once this all dawned on me, and that quiet whisper asking me to let Him handle things took over, I was flooded with that peace. You know, the one that passes all understanding. Once again, He was in control. No worry. No fretting. No brainless filler work. Resting easy once again was the modus operandi. 

And this isn't just this one incident. I realize that this is going to be a daily ritual. Every day I've got to choose to let Him be the boss, as one can't serve two masters. (Matt. 6:24) I can serve the Father or Fear. The Victorious Assurance or Vicious Anxiety. 

(Somewhat random yet interesting trivia bit:
the word "worry" comes from Old English "wyrgan" meaning "to strangle")

What about you? What has God put in your life that you've let take over? Oh, friend let me tell you this: our God is amazing. He heard and delivered David. He heard and delivered me. He hears you and will deliver you if only you will let it go.