What Songs Does Your Heart Sing?

September 27, 2022 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Carol McClain –

Life can drag us down, and regardless of our religious philosophies, we don’t always get what we want, even if we do everything right. In my case, I divorced at thirty, and although I always wanted a large family, I only met my new husband long after I could no longer have a second child. My life wounded me. In high school I believed myself to be an outcast. I grew up in poverty under the hand of my family’s alcoholism. The consequences of sins I’ve committed in my youth left scars, reminders I’d rather forget. Loneliness stalked me, sometimes nearly devouring me.

And I’m not alone in my pain. Several friends battle breast cancer. Another friend’s husband died suddenly of a heart attack, and she found him in the back yard. Odd genetic abnormalities plague the children of a sweet, young family. Each person reading this could add to this list and attest to the fact that life can devour us.

However, several years ago I met a young man whose life made mine look like the pity-party it was. His life convicted me of my sin. I never met him in person, but only through his book of poetry, Journey Through Heartsongs and a few TV appearances.

Mattie J.T. Stepaneck was a peace ambassador for MDA. Born with mitochondrial myopathy, a degenerative neuromuscular disease, his life has been plagued with a chronic decline and loss of motor control. He’s had to breathe with a respirator, had a tube in his heart for medications, and endured weekly blood transfusions.

This disease eventually killed him as it did his brothers Stevie and Jamie and his sister Katie. It also afflicted his mother who discovered she had it only after she’d had four children.

What amazes me most about Mattie is not what he suffered, but the faith and grace that characterized how he faced his pain. Mattie had incredible poetic talent. He began writing at age three, by seven he wrote poetry with enviable sophistication. As a poet, Mattie tried to bring reconciliation to the world, and his poems speak poignantly of disabilities, hope and an indefatigable faith in God.

He knew sooner or later he would be “buried into heaven,” that he is an “echo caught between two worlds,” that his brother Jamie sent him gifts from heaven when he was sad, and that he was remiss if he failed to notice them.

In one poem, he asked his mother if God would extend His right or left hand to him when he died. His mother responded that God would extend both. In a hug. Mattie couldn’t wait for that hug which he received on June 22, 2004, three weeks before his fourteenth birthday.

Reading about this young man who earned a black belt in karate, who dreamt of being a grandpa, who wanted to hold on forever to his holy family, and who held on to a holy God, convicts me. What is my pain? How frail is my faith? How unseemly is my attitude toward God?

I need to remember, I’m a part of a holy family and will ultimately be hugged by God.

(Poetic excerpts taken from: Stepaneck, Mattie. Journey Through Heartsongs. NY: VSP Books—Hyperion, 2001).

Perfect in Weakness

August 23, 2022 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Carol McClain –

We thought my mother never took a whole piece of chicken because she preferred the bones. After we ate, we’d pass the remains of our meal for her to enjoy. Years later, she revealed that while she loved to gnaw on bones, what her family didn’t eat was actually her meal.

As a child born during the Great Depression, my mother’s parents inadvertently fed into her insecurities. She wanted to go to college and major in art, but they wanted her provided for and convinced her to marry instead. Thus at eighteen she married, by nineteen she had her first child. As a housewife, my mother never believed in herself, only in living for her husband and her subsequent six children.

She knew her husband to be more intelligent than she, so she relied on him to earn a living and make decision. She would cook, clean and be a wife.

Life was hard. Both became dependent on alcohol until illness waylaid my father. My mother found herself at thirty-three working low wage jobs to supplement his income. However, with his illness, she worried he might die and feared for her family’s fate.

She had no faith in her talent or her intelligence, but fear drove her to school. She graduated from a community college as a physical therapy assistant.

She continued to drink, worked her jobs, tended her children, enrolled in a four-year college to become a full-fledged physical therapist. It looked as if she conquered all, but God had one more thing to show her—and, at last, she hit rock bottom.
She recognized the toll her drinking took on her family, so she joined AA. There they taught her to believe in a higher power, which eventually enabled her to understand the saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Through faith, her self-esteem grew. She opened her own practice and the family flourished at last. Her trials taught us how to live responsibly, how to trust in Jesus Christ, how to work for our goals. But most important, we learned the power of weakness.

My mother never took credit for the succor she gave others. She understands she made the decision to fight for a better life, and the rest was in God’s hands. My mother proved to us the scripture that, “‘…(God’s) power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Cor. 12.9).

My mother still loves to gnaw the meat off bones, but nowadays it’s from T-bone steaks shared with a family that both recognizes and emulates her strength.

The Goodness of Imperfect Fathers

July 28, 2022 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Carol McClain –

My father wasn’t perfect—he drank too much, smoked unfiltered cigarettes and died too soon. However, these aren’t the moments I recall. Much of the goodness in me and my family is the direct result of him.

He adored my mother. I remember him coming home from work, and we kids would crow for his attention. We received our hugs and kisses, but then he got to Mom. He’d hold her in his arms and they’d cuddle and smooch—none of us existed in that moment. Their love came first.

His interests centered on his boat—and the boat meant family time. We spent summers sailing the Long Island Sound, fishing—we’d fish, he’d bait our hooks and remove our catch. Then we’d picnic on sandbars. As the commander in the Long Island Coast Guard Auxiliary, he modeled his dedication to altruistic causes.

He’d arrive home from work at the same time daily. The great joy of my life was to “surprise” him by walking the half-mile to the main road to meet him.

His positive traits inspired me.

He consciously taught me not to smoke by showing me the tar his cigarettes produced.

My husband, Neil, bought a boat, and it’s the one motorized entertainment I relish. And today, when Neil’s return from work nears, I grab the dog and walk down the route he takes. I feel a childhood joy in meeting my love, of cherishing my faithfulness to my spouse.

These are heirlooms I can finger, joys that play out in my life today, details that show my father’s impact.

And how about you, fathers? You see your flaws, and honestly, so do your children. But they see your goodness and both will impact them for the rest of their lives. Strengthen the good.

“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed” (Heb 12:12-13).

A Review of Peril by Jordyn Redwood

By Carol McClain –

Life couldn’t get worse for Morgan Adams, a pediatric nurse in a Denver Hospital. Her infant daughter died several months earlier—shaken by a trusted friend and babysitter. Morgan’s kidneys are failing, and with her rare blood type, a hope for a donor is remote.

The events of her life erode her faith, strain her marriage, threaten her job and exacerbate her thoughts of suicide.

Then her traumatized world is turned upside down when a fourteen-year-old girl is brought to her unit, comatose, raped and brain dead. Her heart is donated, and the recipient has visions of the attack. Morgan discovers these events will entangle her own beleaguered life.

The threads of the attack stem back to her husband. Medical researcher Dr. Tyler Adams works for a renowned neuroscientist, Dr. Thomas Reeves, who has gained significant ground treating PSTD.

A past Morgan does not yet know will threaten her and the lives of those she cares for.

This is the third in the Bloodline Trilogy by Jordyn Redwood, and is as gripping as the first two in the series. Redwood, a pediatric nurse herself, uses her vast knowledge of medicine to weave twists in the story the reader never suspects, so the reader remains enthralled through the last words.

All elements of the first two books—Proof and Poison—tie together in the conclusion. Redwood’s ability to weave such a cohesive web amazes me.

If you like Richard Mabry, Robin Cook or Brandilyn Collins, you’ll love Jordyn Redwood who writes with the skill of the most popular authors.