Making a Joyful Noise

July 2008

Cheryl Farrell

Cheryl Farrell speaks on faith, hymns, and Let Go, Let God

Cheryl Farrell lives in California with her husband Wendell, son Alec, and daughter Nia Grace. For more information about her “Promise to Remember Me” recording, visit www.bayheartmusic.com. For information about the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, log on to www.jdrf.org.

Music has infused every stage of my life with meaning. I started singing in church when I was about seven years old. I have sung in school programs, at weddings and memorial services, and as a part of my job as a member of the “Clue Crew” on the television quiz show Jeopardy!

Gospel music, in particular, has been with me all along. I find that when I am going through a challenging time, the lyrics of a hymn come to mind. It’s as if the lyrics are part of the vocabulary God uses to speak to me. Decades later, the songs I learned as an antsy child sitting in church on Sunday mornings are a reservoir of faith-filled messages within me.

A Dream Comes True

Since childhood, my dream had been to marry and have children. Wendell and I were both twenty-nine when we married. Unfortunately, my chronic abdominal pain proved to be a severe case of endometriosis, a common cause of infertility. One doctor recommended that I have a hysterectomy, but I wouldn’t accept not being able to have children. After consulting another physician, I had corrective surgery; yet it was six more years before I became pregnant.

Because of the surgery and my age, my pregnancy was termed “high risk.” The doctor strongly recommended I have a delivery by Cesarean section. My pregnancy took a major turn during the seventh month when I suddenly began to hemorrhage.

Wendell worked two hours away, and a heavy rain that had begun earlier that day continued, and even intensified. I called for an ambulance, and as I was rushed to a hospital, I heard concern in the voices of the EMTs as they checked my vitals. My blood pressure was dangerously low, and I knew that both the lives of my baby and myself were in peril. I lay on the gurney, shivering and questioning, God, why is this happening? My baby and I have come so far to have the pregnancy end now.

Once in the operating room—as if in answer to prayer—verses from the hymns of my childhood began to play in my mind, taking on fresh, new meaning for me. “We’ve Come This Far by Faith” reminded me that I had been through trying times before, and God had seen me through. Then another hymn came to me: “Lead Me, Guide Me.” I felt no fear. I knew I was on a divinely led path.

An amazing wash of peace settled over me. While I’ll concede that it might have been the anesthesia, I went into surgery hearing a musical message of hope and faith. I knew everything was going to be all right.

I felt a joy for life that I had never before experienced for the wonderful gift of my son. Alec was born weighing 3 pounds and 15 ounces. He was in neonatal intensive care at the hospital for his first six weeks. The day we finally took him home was a jubilee!

Alec’s early years were typical: filled with bedtime prayers, playtimes, visits from the tooth fairy, scraped knees, and school. One of my favorite memories of him was when he was in kindergarten. At that time, he was learning about the human body—the names and sizes of internal organs.

One afternoon, I was in a particularly cuddly mood. I approached Alec with my arms wide open, saying, “Honey, I love you this much.” I then asked him, “How much do you love me?”

He pondered my question and then raised one small hand to show the distance (about three inches) between his thumb and forefinger. “Oh, don’t you love me as much as I love you?” I questioned.

Continuing to hold out his hand with his thumb and forefinger extended, Alec looked up and said, “Mommy, that’s the size of my heart!”

I’ve been told there is not a correlation with my son’s premature birth and his being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age ten. I didn’t know much about juvenile diabetes then. Like other times in my life, I found myself asking, God, what would you have me do? What came to mind was that I was to take whatever gifts, resources, interests, and assets I had and bring them to bear in doing God’s work. Part of that work was to do something to help the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF).

Two award-winning composers had written a song for JDRF called “Promise to Remember Me”—a powerful call to lawmakers to understand the struggles of children who live with diabetes. I received permission to record the song with proceeds from the sales going to JDRF.

A Bright Light

Alec is a teenager now—a strapping 160-pound, avid lacrosse player. He has a lovely spirit, a bright light. I say that he was my little acorn that has grown into a huge oak tree! We continue to pray for a cure, and he does well in overcoming the challenge of managing this disease. Wendell and I have tried to teach him and his younger sister Nia that we all have the strength and faith to take whatever we are given in life and make something good from it. There’s a blessing that comes from the challenges.

As always, those Sunday school songs come back to me with new meaning, speaking directly to my heart. “Make a Joyful Noise.” Give God the glory in all situations. My favorite verse in Scripture, Matthew 5:16, says: In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

And that’s what I try to do as I let God’s spirit work through me.