Each person has
their song of love
What is yours?
Will it be gentle and soothing?
Will it be fast
Will it be a song of words
that touch the
heart and soul?
Will it be a playful song,
or a song with
Whatever your song conveys,
if it is sung out of love, then
the words and melody come from God
So, let us sing our song of love
each in our
own unique way!
As a child, I felt joyful whenever I learned about Jesus. I loved the stories from the Bible. I was always excited when I heard choirs sing Christmas carols. Seeing Jesus lying in the manger spiritually thrilled me. My teachers often said they wished everyone had my enthusiasm.
Once, I was asked to sing a song to begin a church service. Since I really didn’t know many religious songs, I sang “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog,” by Elvis Presley. The teachers were polite, but I could tell they were'”to put it mildly'”a little surprised. Soon, I started singing in the choir at our Christian school. These teachers were very inspiring, and I became especially fond of Mrs. Johnson, my second grade teacher, who had a quiet and gentle nature. I remember listening to the Christopher’s Show on television. I always remembered, “If everyone lit just one little candle, what a great world this would be.” Even at my young age, I seemed to understand the symbolism of that phrase.
My childhood wasn’t idyllic, however. As a toddler, I was playing on a swing set when two teenagers came and molested me. I will not revisit the details of the molestation, but I clearly remember that one of the boys had a knife and was ready to kill me, when the other boy said, “Let’s go. She isn’t worth it.” Two other times during childhood I was molested. These horrific events had a profound affect on me. I became afraid, ashamed, and I blamed and hated myself.
I stopped going to church, because I didn’t want to hear or learn about God. I wanted nothing to do with Him. I felt angry at God, though I didn’t realize it, at the time. Refusing to go to church became my defiant way of showing the anger I felt inside.
Still, I was able to attend school, go to classes and have a somewhat normal life. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened. I kept the deep pain and shame within me. I kept pushing it back, but by the end of my senior year, I wasn’t able to continue ignoring it. These strong emotions came out in a variety of ways. I had repressed the details of the events of the past, so I couldn’t understand the cause of these strong emotions. Plus, as a child, I was ill-equipped to deal with these feelings.
I sought counseling, which helped enormously. The counselors helped me realize the foundation of my feelings. I needed to talk about what happened and connect with my emotions. This was painfully difficult, but my counselor showered me with care. He also happened to be a Christian. At one point, he asked of I had ever thought of going to church. I explained how I hated myself so much that I felt like I wouldn’t belong. He stated that he thought I would be fine.
I started thinking about what kind of church I would like to attend. I went to a Christian church. I loved it and found it filled with wonderful people. I listened to the word that was spoken. Even in the songs. I wanted to understand everything. I went to a pastor, and he answered many of my questions. I followed his instruction for about year, then the pastor felt I was ready to be baptized.
For me, this commitment meant so much. I didn’t take my baptism lightly. I prayed about it for weeks beforehand, and it seemed to be where God was calling me to serve. My baptism became a day I will never forget! The joy I experienced is something is beyond compare. I felt, for the first time, that I was a beloved daughter of Jesus. Can you imagine how this kind of love and acceptance would feel to someone who had been abused? People said I positively glowed that day. I felt it for the first time: I belonged somewhere and to someone! Oh, what a thrilling day! I felt I could finally start my new life.
And a new start, it was. For the first time, I felt joyful. I remember seeing the nativity scene that first Christmas. When I was younger, I loved pretending that I was there the night Jesus was born. The nativity scene at our church was life-sized, and I became fascinated by the gentleness and love it portrayed. I felt safe and secure as I gazed at it. Real peace flowed through me. The Chrsitmas Eve service felt incredible. The church was dark, and when the lights turned on, it had a powerful effect on me. The music touched my soul, and I moved with the music.
During this time, I couldn’t work because of a medical condition. I wanted to be a part of the ministries, so I joined the choir. I also taught religious education to first graders. Then, I became a lector and led a prayer group .. Our Pastor laughed at me one day saying, “Isn’t there anything you can’t do?” No matter how much I did, I felt I couldn’t do enough to share with others the joy I felt in my heart.
I love music, so my desire to sing in the choir came naturally. The times I enjoyed the most were when we had jazz service. Such a joyful and wonderful celebration of our faith! . Talk about the joy of being a Christian; it felt wonderful!
The prayer group I facilitated included a small group of older adults with disabilities. It became a learning experience for me, as I listened to their stories of being Christian when they were young. We used mediative prayer. I began to understand the history of the Christianity from people who had actually lived much of it. There are no greater teachers in the world than our elders, and these were devoted to Jesus. We also had an extraordinary Pastor who had lunch with us once a year. What a blessing those lunches were! It meant a lot to me, as well as to the other people in our group.
Being a lector was, and still is, a ministry dear to my heart. Even at that early stage of my spiritual journey, I understood some of the message of the words. I felt it was an honor to be able to read the Bible to the congregation. (I still do, by the way). I prayed about the words I would be reading, and I thought about what they meant to me. Then, I reflected on which message I wanted to convey to the congregation when I would read it in church. This is still the process I use when I read at church, today. Through this method, I feel as if the words become a part of me. I let absorbed into every part of my being, so I can proclaim them to others from the heart. I still pray in this manner before I read at church.
Teaching the children was also a challenge and a joy. I loved their enthusiasm for Jesus. We would sing, dance, read stories from the Bible and walk to the park to see God at work in nature. I would try to help these children see how faith should be something we use every day. I taught for approximately seven years at every age level. What a joy it was to share this faith I loved so much with young children. I tried to make it a vital part of their lives. As I taught the third and fourth graders, I asked situational questions so the children would have to think about how they would handle various situations as Christians. The children seemed to enjoy it, and I found I also learned much from them.
I also found an opportunity to do volunteer work in a long-term care facility for older adults who had debilitating illnesses, such as strokes. What a rewarding experience! One of the beliefs of our faith is bringing Jesus to others. This is what I tried to accomplish each time I visited a patient. They were always happy to see me, and, in return, it gave me purpose. I took this ministry very seriously. Sometimes I would sing to them, if they wished; other times, I’d simply check to see if they needed anything. Mostly what I did was listen. Lonely people often want nothing more than companionship and to be heard. I listened to many patients’ stories about their families or the work they had done. At times, I’d become overwhelmed with empathy and would need to leave after a short while. No matter, it was a satisfying experience I will never forget.
During this time, I lived in a community where most residents were older than me, or had a disability. I became friends with many of them, and listened to some of the fears and concerns of these elders. One experience had a huge impact on me: it was when two neighbors died, and no one noticed this for three days. It created a heavy burden on my heart. It seemed totally against our faith and what I believed. I told Jesus right then that, one day, I would advocate for people who are disabled, so this would never happen on my watch, again. The injustice of these people dying alone touched me deeply. Later in my life, I felt blessed to be able to make some steps toward the promise I had made to Jesus.
When I was in college, we were asked to work in a school for disabled children. What valuable lessons I took away from that experience. I saw God’s beauty in the faces of children who weren’t able to eat, dress, or even go to the bathroom by themselves. One girl, in particular, would always smile when I came into the room. Her name was also Cindy, and we took pleasure in sharing our name. I looked beyond her disability and saw that precious child who Jesus loved, and I felt His love, in return.
I saw what wonderful, pure hearts these children had. I remember one child who had no arms or legs, yet she had the most positive attitude you’d find in a person. I have never seen such perseverance and determination to live a full life. What an inspiration! You might wonder what this has to do with being a Christian. Well, in short, everything! Our faith is to be lived. The love we have received is to be given away to others.
Later, I had the opportunity to be on committees for mental health in the county of Sacramento, California. We were advocating for a program which would bring activities in mental boarding and care homes. These are homes that provide meals and medication monitoring for people with severe mental illness. Most the time, the people in these homes would stay indoors, watch television and smoke cigarettes. There were a few programs offering activities, but some of the residents lacked transportation to attend. Along with others, I was able to advocate at the board of supervisors, and they decided to fund our program. I was even able to name it! I volunteered in this program for a year. The people looked forward to our coming, and we took care to comprehend their likes and their concerns .We were able to do art projects, outings, cooking and a variety of other activities. It felt fantastic to be in the home with the residents, where I could see firsthand where they lived and help meet their needs. Again, this was my response to living the faith I had so joyously accepted. To make things even more exciting, I received an award from the Mental Health Association and was offered a position on the Mental Health Advisory Board, which I happily accepted. This was an honor, but I also found it to be quite challenging. It was difficult to hear the needs of our community, knowing we lacked money and resources to fund many of the requirements. This experience helped me understand the great needs, not only of our community, but those of communities all across the United States. It brought to mind the passage from the Bible where Jesus weeps and says they are like sheep without a shepherd.
This period in my life was one of much spiritual growth and commitment. It felt wonderful to serve others in this manner. In addition, it provided me with opportunities to learn about the ministries in the parish and in my community. I developed friendships at church, and I went to church daily. Looking back, it now seems as though this was the beginning of a journey for me, though, at the time, I had no idea where it would lead. Jesus was patiently teaching me how to love others through these ministries. Jesus introduced me to Christianity and taught me how to live the faith which we profess. How could I possibly have known where my journey would lead!
I was fortunate to be hired at a program that works with people who have severe mental illness.I had found my calling. I seemed able to connect with them and understand the difficulties they face daily.Before working there I worked with people who have severe physical disabiIities, and special education.I also went to school and received a degree in Human Services. I completed a four year lay ministry course and also became certified as an Activity Coordinator by the state.
As I became aware of the problems people with mental illness have I wanted to share what I had learned. I was interviewed twice on television and had had two articles in our Sacramento newspaper. I was asked to be in documentary on mental health which should be on HBO in 2010. I was luck to host a television show on one of our cable stations, and advocated at our Board of Supervisors several times.
As I stated earlier, I love music, so it seemed natural that I would be drawn to use music as part of my prayer.I attended work shops on how to have dance as paryer. It was so freeing. I started facilitating retreats where I used dance, art , and sharing. People seemed to respond in a very positive way. They wanted me to provide more retreats and always wanted to know when the next one would be. Due to working full time I haven’t had much time to pursue this has much as I would like.However, I will be layed off of work in a month, so I will have time to see what the next page of my life will be.
I have had a wonderful life and met such caring and faith filled people. I have a strong desire to share the love of Jesus through books. I would love to come to churches and any place someone might want to hear about the light of Jesus. I believe I have an exciting journey ahead of me and I am so honored to share it with you.The glorious light of Jesus us within you and around you. Come share in the joy of Jesus!