Being a New Widow this Christmas

2Mary

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  Luke 2:19

συμβάλλω

symballō

“to throw together, confer,” etc., has the meaning “to ponder,” i.e., “to put one thing with another in considering circumstances,” as in Luke 2:19

Other definitions of the word, pondering, in other Bible verses are: to combine, i.e. (in speaking) to converse, consult, dispute, (mentally) to consider, (by implication) to aid, (personally) to join, attack:—confer, encounter, help, make, meet with, ponder.

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But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.  CSB

…but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.  NLT

…and Mary was preserving all these things, pondering in her heart;… YLT

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As they listened to Simeon speak of their child…

And His father and His mother marveled at what was said about Him.  Luke 2:33

***

And seeing their 12 year old child sitting with three teachers, listening to them and asking question…

And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And His mother treasured up all these things in her heart.  Luke 2:51

***

To be given these words would make one think about the future of this child:

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”  Luke 2:34-35

***

Thirty-three years later, Mary stood near the Cross watching her son.  Before Jesus took His final breaths, He made sure Mary, His mother, would be cared for by John.  We do not know when nor how Joseph died, but he has not been written of in the Bible since Jesus was twelve and he is not around when Jesus is teaching.  So Mary is, most likely, a widow.

…but standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!”  John 19:25-26

***

As I have walked through this Christmas as a widow, I have found my mind and heart wondering and pondering hard things.  I cannot imagine Mary watching her son hanging on the Cross.  Yet, I am making note of Mary’s ways when Jesus was born, when he was growing up, as well as when Jesus was 33 years old and Mary being a widow (in all probability).

There is a calmness about the way she ponders and treasures and listens.  I desire that calmness about me too.  Then God provided for Mary through John.  I must say that this season of my life has far more peace and tranquility than it does fear.  This first Christmas season without Kenneth has been very difficult…hard.  Yet the Lord has been with me all of the way, and has provided for me all the way.  It is in the arms of Jesus that I want to be for He comforts me and loves me and will until I am in His heavenly arms and then through eternity.  Hallelujah!!

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the LORD are right,
and the upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble in them.  Hosea 14:9

Father, I thank You from the deepest place in my heart for all You do for me each and every day.  I thank You for loving me.  Thank You for blessing me with a loving and kind husband in Kenneth.  I am so grateful for 25 years with him.  I am so in love with him and cannot help but cry tears of sorrow alongside tears of joy for being blessed by Kenneth himself and then by the beautiful marriage we shared.  I thank You, Abba, for walking with me through this difficult first Christmas season as a widow.  I believe you are going to walk with me for always.  You are such a loving God.  I want to honor You in who I am, how I behave, and the words coming from my mouth as well as the words of my heart.  I want You to be glorified in the way I represent You.  I desire to walk the steps that You have assigned for me.  You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip. Psalm 18:36 I praise You and pray in the Name of Jesus, Your Son, born so that He could die for me.  Amen.  

 

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photo: origin unknown

graphic: https://southatlanticcoaching.com/a-treasured-pondering/

painting:  by Arent de Gelder, 1645 – 1727, (also: Aert de Gelder); Dutch painter.

YouTube: Voctave performs with original songwriter Mark Lowry “Mary, Did You Know;” arranged by Jamey Ray: https://youtu.be/uaRpeMT1tjQ

 

Another Flag at Half-Staff

 

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Another shooting last night…two songs and a prayer swelled up in me.  I need not say anymore…

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

Yes, how many years can a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
Yes, and how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind.

Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, and how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

“Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan, 1962

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Where have all the flowers gone
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone
Young girls pick them, every one
Oh, when will they ever learn
Oh, when will they ever learn

Where have all the young girls gone
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone
Gone for husbands, every one
Oh, when will they ever learn

Oh, when will they ever learn

Where have all the husbands gone
Long time passing
Where have all the husbands gone
Long time ago
Where have all the husbands gone
Gone for soldiers, every one
Oh, when will they ever learn
Oh, when will they ever learn

Where have all the soldiers gone
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone
Gone to graveyards, every one
Oh, when will they ever learn

Oh, when will they ever learn

Where have all the graveyards gone
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone
Gone to flowers, every one
Oh, when will they ever learn
Oh, when will they ever learn

Where have all the flowers gone
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone
Young girls have picked them, every one
Oh, when will they ever learn
Oh, when will they ever learn

“Where Have All the Flowers Gone” by Pete Seeger, 1955

 

Oh, LORD, forgive us our sins.  Heal this land, this nation, this world, O God.  We have fallen so very far away from You, Father.  Forgive us. When will we ever learn? 

I seek Your face and know You care about us.  I know You love us.  But have You given up on us?  I think not.  You called Your children over and over again as they wandered in the wilderness and were held in captivity.  You are calling to us to turn from our wicked ways and come to You.  I pray for us as a world, as a nation, as individuals.  May we get on our knees before You, before the Cross of Christ and repent of our ways that we may return to You.  I pray this with a heavy heart for my own loss, but the loss of the nation and the world seems extremely heavy to bear.  Christ, please take these burdens from me for I cannot carry them.  I pray in Your Holy Name.  Amen.  

 

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Harmony

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A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.  A psalm of David.

How wonderful and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in harmony!

For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil
that was poured over Aaron’s head,
that ran down his beard
and onto the border of his robe.

Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon
that falls on the mountains of Zion.
And there the LORD has pronounced his blessing,
even life everlasting.  Psalm 133:1-3

יַחַד

yachad

properly, a unit, i.e. unitedly:—alike, at all (once), both, likewise, only, (al-) together, withal

In Hebrew, the word for harmony is often translated unity or all together.

C. H. Spurgeon writes this of Psalm 133:2:

“In order that we may the better behold brotherly unity David gives us a resemblance, so that as in a glass we may perceive its blessedness. It has a sweet perfume about it, comparable to that precious ointment with which the first High Priest was anointed at his ordination. It is a holy thing, and so again is like the oil of consecration which was to be used only in the Lord’s service. What a sacred thing must brotherly love be when it can be likened to an oil which must never be poured on any man but on the Lord’s high priest alone! It is a diffusive thing: being poured on his head the fragrant oil flowed down upon Aaron’s head, and thence dropped upon his garments till the utmost hem was anointed therewith; and even so doth brotherly love extend its benign power and bless all who are beneath its influence. Hearty concord brings a benediction upon all concerned; its goodness and pleasure are shared in by the lowliest members of the household; even the servants are the better and the happier because of the lovely unity among the members of the family. It has a special use about it; for as by the anointing oil Aaron was set apart for the special service of Jehovah, even so those who dwell in love are the better fitted to glorify God in his church. The Lord is not likely to use for his glory those who are devoid of love; they lack the anointing needful to make them priests unto the Lord. “That ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard.” This is a chief point of comparison, that as the oil did not remain confined to the place where it first fell, but flowed down the High Priest’s hair and bedewed his beard, even so brotherly love descending from the head distils and descends, anointing as it runs, and perfuming all it lights upon. … Christian affection knows no limits of parish, nation, sect, or age. Is the man a believer in Christ? Then he is in the one body, and I must yield him an abiding love. Is he one of the poorest, one of the least spiritual, one of the least lovable? Then he is as the skirts of the garment, and my heart’s love must fall even upon him. Brotherly love comes from the head, but falls to the feet. Its way is downward. It “ran down,” and it “went down:” love for the brethren condescends to men of low estate, it is not puffed up, but is lowly and meek. This is no small part of its excellence: oil would not anoint if it did not flow down, neither would brotherly love diffuse its blessing if it did not descend.”

With the turmoil and hatred and violence we see all around this world, I am drawn to this beautiful word, harmony.  I so desire that we ALL could live in harmony.  I want to see everyone as my sister, my brother, my friend.  I want love to filter through each one of us to all.  Oh, I have these wishes and hopes for all who live on this earth.  Am I asking too much?

Jesus said these words to His Father before it was His time to go away from His disciples, from this earth:

I am in them and You are in Me.  May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that You sent Me and that You love them as much as You love Me.  John 17:23

He desired this for us all.

In the Greek, the words harmony and unity draw Christ into this oneness.

εἷς

heis

one, adhere to Christ to make one person, gather together into one

I love this word picture of adhering to Christ…making us one person.

Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.  Never be wise in your own sight.  Romans 12:16

Living this way does not mean everyone must be exactly alike or think the same thoughts.  God created us each as His own creation.  He wove us in our mother’s womb as one-of-a-kind.  Our skin, hair, facial features, bodily shapes, talents…everything about us are one-of-a-kind.  So living in unity or harmony is to be who God created us to be…our very selves, yet walk in the ways that God would have us go.  He asks us to be kind and love one another, not just to those we want to love…but all.  We can love yet not like an action or behavior of another.  We are to forgive, to wipe the dust from our feet, to turn the other cheek, bless them through the image of Christ that we are to portray.  May we see them as He sees them, I pray.

Music is made up of many notes along scales.  There are flats and sharps, minor keys and major keys.  There are white keys and black keys on a piano. When music is played or sung, it can be harmonious.  The sounds are beautiful from high to low.  The music notes are individual but together, they get along, melding together into one piece.  Each note does not get huffy about another and go their own way.  They work together in one accord.

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As people, we should want to live as musical notes, united in the outcome of every beat.  We should want to sound beautiful together.  This should be like our way of living…in harmony.  God wants to see His children living in unity, in one accord.

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Romans 15:5-6

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  Colossians 3:14

Oh, these things are hard, yet, in Christ, they are not because the Holy Spirit is our guide.  Depending upon Him gives us strength, ability, and love so that we can bless others, speak the Truth, love as Christ loves.  Jesus said:

“I can do nothing on My own.  As I hear, I judge, and My judgment is just, because I seek not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.”  John 5:30

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothingJohn 15:6

Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing…NOTHING!  It is through Him that this harmony, unity can happen.

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“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and His ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”  1 Peter 3:8-12

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.  This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.  Ephesians 4:11-13

Father God, I lift up this world to You.  There is so much discord.  It saddens me and hurts too.  I want all to be under Your umbrella, sweetly receiving the oil of brotherly love.  I want each of us to walk in Your ways and to know that You desire peace among us.  I am sorry for things I may say or do that hurt You.  I am saddened for that which I see around me whether it be on media or between people at the store.  Oh, that I can praise You for Your grace and love cropping up here and there around this place I am calling home now.  There is some brotherly love, care and kindness, respect and politeness.  May it grow and envelop this city, this state, this country, and this world.  May we live together as one…all in one accord.  I pray in the Name of Your Holy Son.  Amen. 

 

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Father’s Day – 2016

MUSIC MEMORIES IN THE MIND OF MY WONDERFUL FATHER

Horace Williams, Jr. commented on a post here @ Being Woven (April 29, 2016/Memory’s Music) which so touched my heart.  It was in regards to the topic and the love he has for his father.  I have invited him to be my guest today.

In honor of Father’s Day, I welcome Horace Williams, Jr. of Pleasing to the Potter.

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My father is a wonderful man!  I am blessed to be his first born son and his namesake.  I have not written specifically about him on my site even though it was intended in the parent references I’ve made on several occasions.  My father and I have a very unique relationship but as I have grown older and wiser, my desire is to live like he lives in representing Jesus Christ.

Today, I want to share with you some highlights so you can know him a little better and then I will convey how music has impacted my father’s life and continues to do so.  Growing up as a child, I can remember my father and his love for classical music.  I did not really understand it at that time and I can remember thinking where are the words?  How can you listen to music with no words, I would ask myself?  Two of his favorite composers are Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.

I admit as I got older I began to understand his affinity for classical music.  In fact, I am listening to one of my favorites (Tchaikovsky) right now as I type this.  He composed so many great pieces of music such as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and my favorite, his Piano Concerto No. 1.  As a former piano player myself, I can only dream to have played like this, but I digress!  Now back to my father.  Here are some highlights to give you a “peek” into just who he is.

Fantastic facts about my Father:

Faithful Husband.  Dad and Mom celebrated their 50th wedding Anniversary this year!

Fantastic Father of five children.

Fortunate Grandpa to 11 amazing grandchildren.  I say fortunate because my parents had to be wondering if I would ever give them a grandchild.  I think my mom stopped asking me fifteen years ago!

Fluent in 4 languages. (at one time he was) English, Spanish, French, and German

First class Army Veteran.  Dad was a distinguished Army Captain of the MP’s during the time of the Vietnam War.

Former Pastor, Church planter, and Home Missionary.  It was during my dad’s time in the Army that He came to know Christ as his Lord and Savior and felt led to attend Bible College.  He then became a Home Missionary as God directed him to start a church.

Free Taxi Driver.  I can still remember either dropping me off or picking me up in the wee hours of the night from work regardless of how many hours he had worked that day.

Frequently Awkward Adviser.  I think because my father saw us as so different, he had a hard time figuring me out at times.  Although he always advised me in love growing up, our differences made it hard on him at times.  For example, I loved playing sports; he played in the band.  He loved Sci-fi movies and I prefer a great mystery or love story.  Oh, how I wish I had listened to those “awkward” conversations growing up.  Looking back now, they were filled with such Godly wisdom.

Fighting a difficult battle with the debilitating Alzheimer’s disease.  Yes, you read correctly.  My father now suffers from Alzheimer’s.  A few years ago my father was t-boned while driving my car as I was recovering from the stroke.  My car was totaled; he was okay, just a little shaken.  It was at that moment we wondered if there might be something wrong with the safest driver I have ever known.  I remember the day he told me his diagnosis was confirmed.  He kept repeating it to anyone who would listen… I have Alzheimer’s.  It broke my heart!

As I watch Alzheimer’s progressively attack my father’s brain, I go to God in prayer asking for peace in my father’s mind.  I do not understand the disease and I’m not sure anyone does.  I’ve read research articles and reports on the subject.  It was stated in one article that sometimes Alzheimer sufferers remember things buried in their heart.

 

I feel my father’s love when he greets me with a kiss and calls me by my name.  His love for music is still evident.  For our parent’s 50th anniversary, all of my siblings pitched in and we got them tickets to the symphony.  It was a performance of both Beethoven and Mozart.  My mom said he absolutely loved it!  He sat still for the entire two-hour performance and did not move a muscle!  (I would include a picture but they are all pretty dark.)

Dad and Mom- Memory Post Dad

Mom also plays the local classical music station when they are driving as too much talking seems to perturb him at times.  My father has always been a fan of the “old school” hymns.  He never really has been a fan of the contemporary Christian music.  He loves hymns like The Old Rugged Cross and How Great Thou Art.  One hymn that has special meaning and seems to have stayed with him through everything is My Hope is Built on Nothing Less.  It is a beautiful and inspiring hymn from the 1800’s, a song overflowing with hope in Jesus and our foundation in Him.

Just a few days ago we all went to visit our parents.  He sat down in the chair next to me and asked me how I was doing.  I told him I was feeling okay, but was having a little pain.  He looked me in the eye and recited the first verse of this song to me.  It was all I could do to keep from crying.  I got up and kissed him on the forehead as I whispered, I love you, Dad.  I’m not sure I will ever understand why this is happening to such a kind, loving, and brilliant man with a heart for God.  I trust my Father in Heaven and I ask Him that He bless my earthly father with peace of mind…even if it’s the few minutes of listening to or hearing his favorite songs.

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I’ve included a beautiful video of the song my dad recites to me every time he sees me.  I pray you are encouraged and inspired.  Please pray for my father and grace for my mother.

Blessings to you and yours,

Horace Williams Jr.

Jr at 40-Edited-2015

Bio

I am a single, Christian man who loves the Lord Jesus with all his heart.  I am also the oldest of five siblings.  In the Summer of 2010, I suffered a devastating stroke that could have taken my life.  My entire left side was paralyzed due to a ruptured blood vessel in my brain!  However, God has given me a second chance and I want to glorify Him every day.  As my love for Christ grows deeper, it’s my desire to share my faith with others.  I pray you find help, inspiration, and encouragement as I share with you about the transforming power and love of God.

www.PleasingtothePotter.com

Memory’s Music

 

Soothing Moments

Let me introduce my Mama to you. She has since passed away to be with the Lord, but in this picture, she was 98 years old with dementia and diabetes, living in a nursing home within two miles of my home.  This picture was taken on her last birthday.  She has earbuds in her ears, attached to an iShuffle, listening and singing to a French opera singer from her childhood days, Lily Pons.  She listened to Christmas carols sung by the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, a few patriotic songs sung by Kate Smith, and a musical piece called “Maple Leaf Rag,” composed by Scott Joplin in 1899.  She sang, even reaching the extremely high notes of Lily Pons.  She directed the music with her hands.  She played the piano with her fingers on the arms of the chair when the “Maple Leaf Rag” came on.  She would tell me stories about her Italian bricklaying father who made all in the house be quiet so he could listen to opera on Saturday morning radio programs.  Mama loved that time with her father and playing this music brought that whole scenario back to life for her. She told me stories of her Chicago upbringing and about all of the vaudeville shows and silent movies with the good music being played by the live piano or organ player. I downloaded these tunes for Mama about two years before she died.  She enjoyed music so when she was awake and in the mood to listen I would put those earbuds into her ear and she loved it.  She was amazed that the “little bitty thing” could hold all of that “great music” for her to listen to.  Even though I could not hear her music, I knew what she was listening to for she told me each piece, the singer or the piano player.  And she would want me to hear it too!  This became quite a special event for her and I absolutely loved it, for her sweet sake!  Music takes us to places and things remembered, may it be as children, teens, adults, or to landings in our journey through life, a special moment, or a special person. With today’s internet, the music from era upon era is available. I was actually quite amazed to find Lily Pons (whom I had never heard of) who began singing in the late 1920s. Mama would have been in high school at that time.

Sing to God, sing praises to His name;
lift up a song to Him who rides through the deserts;
His name is the LORD;
exult before Him!
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in His holy habitation.
God settles the solitary in a home;…. Psalm 68:4-6a

Music needs to be something that the person can relate to so finding out the tastes of a person is important.  Hopefully, the one you are desiring music for can tell you his or her favorites, as was the case with Mama, or you can recall the favorites, or there is a family member or friend who can name tunes that would bring back a fond memory.  I found that songs of a varied mix, maybe four or five of one artist, four to ten of a certain type of music (Christmas, spiritual, ragtime, country, Big Band, etc.) interspersed with singles of just one particular type make for a delightful combination for the listener.  The listener doesn’t seem to become weary of the varied flavors of music for it spans much of their lifetime, their likes, their memories and sweet times.     

Over-the-ear headphones work better than earbuds as they tend to stay on the head better.  The earbuds tended to fall out, as I quickly found out, repositioning them from time to time.  Mama could not deal with the iShuffle’s intricate method of operation so I was there to forward a piece or shut it off completely.  Some people may not like either the headphones or earbuds so a small speaker may be the ticket.  Years ago, I had a small cd player/radio for Mama with built-in speakers.  (The staff and I used music to soothe Mama during her paranoid and hallucinatory dementia stages, especially at night.)  If the elder knows how to use the player, that makes it easy, but if not, then someone nearby needs to help.  Over time though, I got an iShuffle and downloaded just her music for just her enjoyment.  Because I was dealing with a constantly changing staff at the nursing home, I kept the iShuffle in my purse, always having it with me on each visit.  I would see what mood Mama was in and decide whether or not to use it that visit.  Using it from time to time also keeps it special.  (Nursing homes are finding music works well during a transition in a daily schedule: if someone is hesitant to take a bath or eat or get dressed, music may take their mind away from the task at hand, allowing them to flow into that which needs doing.)

The memories associated with the various music may take a bit of time to surface.  Yet, for others, they bubble to the top immediately.  Even though we may spend a lot of time putting the music together on the device, patience is our key.  Allow the person time to listen and become accustomed to what they are hearing.  If the person is responding, don’t be shy about joining in as they sing.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!  Psalm 98:4

Well over two years ago, I wrote about this topic.  I had been using music with Mama for some time.  In the news, I was seeing articles relating to music and the mind, brain function, and such.  I want to share a website called “Music and Memory” where they have been studying and encouraging the use of music with the elderly, especially those who have shut down or are depressed.  This is a short video about Henry.  I highly recommend taking the time to watch it.  You will be so encouraged to take up this mantle and bring music to one you love.  http://musicandmemory.org/

Another website that includes music as therapy is “Validation.”  This video does not use a device but the beauty of spiritual music brings a woman to life:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrZXz10FcVM

LORD, I thank You for giving people the creativeness to write, sing, and play music, for the ability to so appreciate different kinds of music, and to bring memories to the surface through music.  I thank You for these wonderful elderly who can express themselves, for some…a breath of “FINALLY” can come out because of music, for others a freedom to sing, dance, whistle, direct the band, and clap.  Thank You, LORD, for the staff and the families who use this way to bring about changes for these special folks.  I am so grateful You allowed me to use this well before ever seeing such articles and videos.  Mama enjoyed this self-expression, not that she needed to come out of a shell, but that she was so happy with her kind of music.  I am so blessed, LORD, because You showed me this way for her.  I give You all of the glory.  All, LORD, ALL!  Amen.

 

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