Posts Tagged ‘family’

Despite the craziness, there was always music…

For as much as the home I grew up in was full of its own type of craziness and dysfunction (see previous post), our saving grace was music.  My parents were great music lovers, and I can barely remember a time that some kind of music was not playing in our house.  Both of my siblings played the piano beautifully (me, not so muClassical Musicch), and even though our old upright grand converted player piano was out-of-tune and permanently on sustain, the music that came out of it still rings in my heart.  My sister played everything from Chopin to show tunes.  My brother favored Beethoven. especially “Moonlight Sonata.”

One Christmas, we gave my dad a ukulele.  We all sat around, my sister on the flute, me playing maracas, and my brother on some goofy kazoo, playing Christmas carols.  Ah, family togetherness!  See what the music world missed?

I’ll never forget the year my sister bought a stereo record player for our family.  This was not a little “suitcase” record player: this was a piece of furniture, with a record player on one side, and an FM radio on the other.  It was always playing, especially at Christmas.

My dad purchased every “50 Great Classics” and  “25 Enduring Favorites” album that was sold on television, along  with the Firestone Christmas Albums that came out each year.  He loved the Mills Brothers, and the famous barbershop quartet, The Buffalo Bills.  We sang along with Mitch Miller and watched every musical variety show on TV.  Only recently did I learn that my dad conducted a community choir in the town where they lived before moving to my hometown.  He had a deep voice, similar to that of Bing Crosby…  I can’t hear “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” without thinking of my dad.

Now, my mom, while a lover of music, couldn’t carry a tune if it had handles.  I think her problem was that most songs were out of range for her low voice.  She was the victim of our teasing, but she laughed right along with us, and was ever-present at our choir concerts.

Stereo I would come home on Friday night with my latest purchase — a “45” of a top song that week — put it on the stereo and sing into the mirror holding my hairbrush as a mic.  Oh yes, I was that girl.

In my bedroom, I had an AM radio with a slim “pillow speaker” connected by a jack.  It could pickup clear-channel stations from as far away as Indiana (WOWO, Fort Wayne).  The music coming from under my pillow drowned out the arguments from downstairs.

Looking back, I believe that music was God’s gift to our family.  It brought peace, joy, and unity amidst fractured times. It brought solace and comfort.  It echos still with pleasant memories.

Surely music is one of God’s purest gifts of creation.  We use it to express our love to Him.  That’s because He first used music to express His love for us, and He has placed it deep within us.  In the book of Job, God tells us that He laid the cornerstone of the earth’s foundation, “…while the morning stars sang together.” (Job 38:7)  What would we give to hear that tune?  Do you suppose Adam and Eve did?

And in Zephaniah 3: 17, we see these beautiful words:

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (NIV)

I didn’t always know it was you singing.  But thank you, God, for the music.

(c) Copyright 2015 by Mary E. Egidio.  Permission is given to share, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.  

Not My Face, Not My Mirror

IMG_0483 (2)I looked in the mirror and was shocked by what I saw.  I had lost my balance when my foot hit a pine cone and down I went in the soft grass.  Although I seemed to be in one piece, I knew my face had taken much of the impact when I’d landed.  Expecting minor scrapes, I was shocked to see small cuts, blood streaked down my face, and a bruise already forming on my left cheek.  But while my friends expressed their concern and ran to get ice and first aid, I was seeing something else they couldn’t see in that mirror.

I was seeing the face of my mother.  My mother, sitting across the breakfast table from her ten year-old daughter, with a bruised cheek and blackened eye.  She’d claimed to have fallen out of bed, but I’d heard the argument the night before, the yelling, the slap.  Worst, perhaps, was that I thought she was to blame for it.  “If she’d just leave him alone when he came home late, this wouldn’t happen,” I’d thought.

This was the family secret.  The middle-class neighborhood, the sales executive father who never missed a day of work, Sunday morning mass each week, the outward appearance of a happy family–all hiding the deeper secrets of alcoholism, abuse, denial and infidelity.  I didn’t know any different.  I thought this happened behind everyone’s closed doors.

I was almost in tears, looking at my own face in the mirror years later, a face that was closer to the age of my mother’s then. No.  I never wanted to see this, I thought.  This wasn’t going to happen to me.  Forgotten emotions started to build inside me.  But then I realized it hadn’t happened to me.  What had happened to me truly was an accident.  I truly had fallen. In that moment I realized once again how far God has brought me.

Domestic violence becomes a learned behavior, both on the part of the abuser and the victim.  It is a pattern that often is repeated from generation to generation. Hand-in-hand with other addictive behaviors, it is part of a seemingly continuous cycle.  So what happened in my life that caused the difference?  What broke the cycle?

I credit my older sister, who became a recovering alcoholic, and who took me to Al-Anon and Recovery, Inc. meetings, where I began to understand that the family dynamics in my house weren’t healthy.  I read books such as David Seamens’ Healing for Damaged Emotions and Healing of Memories.  Then I sought the miraculous, transforming power of God’s Holy Spirit, who healed me from the inside out and replaced the pattern of abuse with a heart full of His peace. It took years to fully understand and accept the unconditional love my Heavenly Father has for me. He showed me families who truly lived out the grace of God in their lives together, with no secrets and nothing to hide. In answer to the deepest prayer of my heart, God gave me a kind and loving husband, with whom I have shared 37 years, and who has never once raised a hand to me in anger, or even spoken abusively.  I am truly blessed.  I am truly thankful.

Seeing my face in the mirror that day was shocking. Even after 50 years, the memories stung.  But through my tears, I realized I could sing with joy, “My chains are gone!  I’ve been set free!  My God, my Savior has rescued me! And like a flood, His mercy reigns. Unending love, Amazing Grace!” *

*”Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” refrain written by Chris Tomlin and Louis Giglio  (c) copyright 2006 Sixsteps Music

***October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.  If you need help, please, don’t hesitate.  Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline or your local law enforcement.

Copyright 2015 by Mary Egidio. Permission is granted to share, but with attribution and not for profit.

When Love Truly Wins

IMG_0247When Daniel Jones, editor of the New York Times “Modern Love” column was getting married, he and his wife discussed the possibility of digressing from the traditional wedding vows, to something more realistic.  Rather than a blind “I promise”, she thought  “I promise to try my best” might be more accurate…something on which they could honestly follow through.  Although they stuck with the traditional vows, twenty years later, Jones reaches this conclusion:  “Not once have I felt tempted to break them, only to think, Oops…but I promised not to… I’m more likely to say to myself, I wouldn’t want to hurt Cathi in that way…. Or, I don’t want to do that to us.”

He finishes with this:  “Here, in the real world of marital commitment, it turns out we’re less concerned about breaking rules than about breaking the heart of the one we love most.” *

What a wonderful picture of a life surrendered to Christ!  It’s not about keeping a long list of rules and judging ourselves and others by them. It’s not about attempting a perfection that could never be attained on our own.  Rather, our focus is to be on our love for God and for the people around us.  When the commitment to His holy love truly consumes us, anything less holds no allure.

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment in the law, His reply was a new commandment:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind….And …Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37, 39 (NIV)

But unconditional love can be complicated and messy.  And there’s that whole “commitment” thing to deal with.  What if I don’t feel like it anymore?  What if a better offer comes along? How much of my time and energy am I really expected to give?  Relationships can be so unpredictable! Instead, despite our Lord’s command, it’s too easy and much more comfortable for us to get out that clipboard and checklist, to track how we and the others around us measure up.

Paul instructed the early church in Galatia about such an issue.   As Jews converted to Christianity, they mistakenly thought they still had to follow the complicated Hebraic laws, and forced the converted Gentiles to do the same.  By doing so they were entirely missing the freedom for which Christ had died.  “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free,” Paul explained.  “Do not let yourselves be burdened again in a yoke of slavery.” Gal. 5:1 (NIV)  He goes on to explain it this way:   “The entire law is summed up in a single command:  Love your neighbor as yourself….So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”  Galatians 5:14, 16 (NIV)

It’s pretty simple.  Forget the list.  Live in freedom.  Follow the Spirit.  Love with abandon.  To do anything less would break the heart of the One we love most.

*Daniel Jones, excerpted from Love Illuminated, as published in Good Housekeeping, Feb. 2014, p. 168

Copyright 2015  Mary Egidio — permission is given to share, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.