A new page for our hymnal

It was a long day of testing. She drew circles, squares, crosses. She stacked blocks, arranged them by color, counted them out loud for the bird-thin woman whose body had miraculously housed three children but seemed hollow now as it bent unnaturally into a "C" around Amelia's small hands. They measured how those coils of brain matter communicated, how they functioned all by themselves, which coils are damaged, which coils show promise, which coils came through the fire of brain infection unscathed.


It is her left brain that is hurting. The part she inherited strong from both parents - the logical, orderly, sequential, analytical, words-and-numbers side of the brain. Her right brain is fine (thus her left hand, her left eye, her left leg). This is why she stumbles to the right, her right hand twitches when she holds the pencil, her right eye glides in to study the curvature of her nose when it should be looking elsewhere.

Those precious curves of the brain, coiling in and out, glistening platinum, bathed in the white vernix for safe-keeping. I am to believe there is purpose in the searing of what is precious in this cursed world, that by this sacrifice He will receive glory.


My mother taught me verses as a child, many, many. Set them to music. Sang them, sing-song through the day, singing a way to a peaceful home, begging God for a peaceful heart, pleading God for rescued children. Two and a half long hard years ago, the doctors told me I might lose my voice forever during my cancer surgery. I bought a USB microphone and sang and read stories long into the sleepless nights, read them and sang them into the person-less laptop computer, with a photo of my children in front me. Children who might never hear me speak or sing again.


How do you mourn these losses, these temporary but oh-so-anguished losses? How to keep the tears from my songs in those recordings, how to make the voices of the stories come alive with the whole spectrum of human emotion, not just the anguish and the pain and the pleading and the grief? Somehow I did it, and the stories have the rasping voice of the crows, the high-pitched voices of fairies, the hilarity of the three singing pigs in Sandra Boynton's classic.


And now those hard, long anguished years have passed. And we are still in the thick of the battle with Satan - the Job battle, the battle where your body is beaten, battered, languishing for a Word from the One who loves, protects, strengthens. I still speak, I still sing (albeit my voice more faltering, projection lessened. I am no longer the singer-in-the-bathroom-corners searching for acoustics to magnify this unsure that is my songbox).  I sing my mother's songs...Not by works of righteousness...For there is one God and one mediator...Search me, O God, and know my heart...And these words which I have told you this day shall be in your heart...Trust in the Lord with all thine heart...


The time has come now. I feel it, pulling, tugging hard at my heartstrings. I am woman now, mother to these four who grow so quick, keeper of this home teetering on the edge of disaster and in the arms of Greatness. I have sung her songs...my mother's...for these three decades. We worship quick in the cracks of the day's work, we worship long in the last lingering moments of the evening with the children huddled under covers and Mama in the blue rocker whispering the last refrains of the day's verses. Now is the time to add our own songs to this hymnal of the generations.


Ten years ago, I worshiped quiet with head bent, eyes closed often, finger tracing the words under the music score of the red hymnal full of centuries-old songs of praise. Then I learned to lift hands, and, slowly still, believe they can be holy hands. They still feel wooden, hypocritical, copy-cat, demanded. Not like holy hands, yet. I wash them daily, hourly, moment-by-moment in the prayer of confession, and I see the blood run off in the Living Water and how they go from scarlet to white, clean hands cleaned by Grace. Maybe if I close my eyes with hands high in worship, faltering voice joining the throng of other believers, maybe I can feel holy hands, with eyes closed.

It isn't enough - Memory Madness drills, devotions in the morning, reading the Word at dinnertime while the youngest splats potatoes on the clean floor and his sister has a seizure and vomits on her plate and the older two try to help - find glasses, get silverware, get towels to clean vomit. I need to sing my own songs. Write my owns songs on my heart. The Scriptures are already written there, rich, bountiful. Now the notes. Please send me the songs, Lord.

May every generation of this besieged family write a new page in the hymnal of Scripture-songs my own mother started, with her song-bird voice and her lilting melodies that pour easy from her right brain.

Amy's left brain doesn't work. Maybe she can teach me to be more right-brained. Maybe we can use her melodies and my memories to write Scripture songs that are the reflection of the broken.






I've attached a few of the mp3 files of the recordings I made before my cancer surgery.  Although I didn't lose my voice, I did suffer vocal cord paralysis (at first) that has now progressed to vocal cord paresis (weakness), and my voice is forever changed.  These days, my kids beg to listen to one of two CDs at bedtime: "Mama Sings" or "Mama Reads".  I would encourage moms everywhere to make CDs like this for your kids.  What a comforting, delightful way to go to sleep - and eases the burden of sitting there to sing every.single.night.

Gen sings Proverbs 3:5; recorded June, 2008, just before surgery for aggressive thyroid cancer


Fern's Song: I Timothy 2:5-6


Search Me, O God (Psalm 139:23-24)


Teach them diligently unto thy children (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)


Reading Sandra Boynton's "Moo, Baa, La la la!"





holy experience