I Sing Because I'm Free

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The Holly and The Ivy

“The Holly and the Ivy”
The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown 
The holly bears a blossom
As white as lily flower
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To be our sweet Saviour
From the rising of the sun
Unto the going down of the same
The Lord’s name is to be praised 
The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good
The holly bears a prickle
As sharp as any thorn;
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
On Christmas Day in the morn.
From the rising of the sun
Unto the going down of the same 
The Lord’s name is to be praised
I have always loved this old Christmas carol!  The beautiful sing-song melody, combined with the lyric’s rich symbolism have always intrigued me.  I added a chorus to it and changed up the accompaniment. 
Hope you enjoy- 
and Merry Christmas!
From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD’S name is to be praised. 
Psalm 113:3
https://youtu.be/eO2tdXC9C5g
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Christmas Dishes

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I was feeling a little melancholy the other day as I was fixing a day-after Thanksgiving meal for the 4 of us.  Now that the girls are getting older, holidays just feel different.   I miss the girls being little and wanting to spend time with me.   I miss the excitement of Santa and long toy lists and just the sheer giddiness that exudes from children this time of year.

As I was cooking dinner, my oldest came out of “hiding” (she spends lots of time in her room now) and she asked me about what sorts of traditions I did with my family as a kid.

Did you have lots of Christmas decorations when you were little?

I remembered the glass candle globes with holly berries around them that we placed on our coffee table and dining room table.  And we always hung mistletoe in the hallway.  And there were these Christmas dishes…

Wait a minute- you had Christmas dishes?  For some reason, that piqued her interest.

Actually, I have them somewhere in the garage packed away. 

And like that, my oldest daughter was a giddy child on a mission to find them.

I went to the garage with her, and we dug through several bins looking for them.  Lo and behold- we found the magic tub filled with the Christmas dishes.

“I can’t believe you never told us about these!”

I helped her bring the tub upstairs, and then I watched as she took out every piece and neatly stacked it on the kitchen counter.  She snapped a picture of the dishes to send to her friend. “It doesn’t take much to make me excited!” She grinned from ear to ear as she sent her friend a text with the picture of the treasure she found in the garage.

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Why have we never used these?!”  she asked me.

“I didn’t want to take the chance of breaking them when you girls were younger.”  And that was the honest truth.  I remember my aunt got us those dishes for Christmas when I was really young, and they were special to me.

I told her if she wanted us to use the dishes then she needed to hand wash all of them.  She happily obliged, and then she set the table for our day-after-Thanksgiving meal with our fancy Christmas dishes.

And as we ate together as a family that evening, I was filled with joy.  Something as simple as eating on a plate with a Christmas tree used to make me so excited as a kid!  Knowing that those same dishes brought the same joy to my daughter’s face that day overwhelmed my heart with gladness.

And just like that- something old that had been packed away years ago became new again…and a new family tradition has begun!

    Old things have disappeared, and look! all things have become new!            

     2 Corinthians 5:17

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autumn-atic

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Golden leaves

dripped from trees

as I walked autumn’s

wonderland

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foliage bright

a glorious sight

crafted by

the Master’s Hand

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Final chance

to catch a glance

before the colors 

fade  

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was hard to budge

I felt the nudge

so glad that I obeyed

Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.  Psalm 150:6

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He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.  Psalm 1:3

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For everything there is a season  Ecclesiastes 3:1

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He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting.  Psalm 104:19

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You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. 

Psalm 65:11

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just because

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don’t need a reason

don’t need a holiday

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don’t need a million dollars 

or a firework display

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don’t need much 

but one thing is true 

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it’s the little things 

that make me love you 

My hubby and I have never been big gift-givers.  He has surprised me with the occasional big gift for my birthday or Christmas, but really what means the most are the little things.

Like the other day.

We were walking through a store and there was an unusually large display of gorgeous roses.  While my daughter was admiring them,  I noticed my husband turn to look at the roses and he lingered for a moment…

“Babe, how about you pick out one of these bouquets?”

I love flowers.

I am also frugal.

And I know that flowers have a short shelf-life, which also makes me think that it’s not something I really need to spend money on…

But in that moment, God knew exactly what I needed.

Over that last week I allowed myself to feel like a failure… as a mom, as a wife… a failure at whatever it was that I was doing.  I convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough.  It was all in my head, but that little lie raged inside of me.  I tried to fight it all week.  I read scriptures,  prayed, did all the things I knew to do and yet it was still there and I couldn’t escape that feeling that I was worthless.

But in my husband’s eyes I was worthy of those flowers…just because he loves me. In fact, it meant more to me because it was spontaneous and not because it was a special occasion.

And this week, God has used those beautiful roses to remind me of His perfect love for me, too.  He is right on time, every time!  Every time I have walked into the living room, those roses have made me smile.

He loves me just because.  And so does my husband.

In fact, there isn’t anything I could do to make Him love me more!

He loves me for who I am in Him, not for what I do! 

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 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.    Ephesians 2:8-9

 

 

 

 

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The “LBD”

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The little black dress-

How could I have known?

All the times He’d used it

to make Himself

known!

The LBD

I think it’s time

to keep bringing it out

of this closet of mine!

Mondays are usually days I use to “TCB”- take care of business… to do all the things that went un-done over the weekend.  Today was unusual, as I was singing for a funeral and also had errands to run. I had thought about bringing a change of clothes, but didn’t think I’d have enough time to stop before the funeral to change into my dress.  So to save time, I left the house wearing my black dress.  It was slightly unusual for me to be dressed up on a Monday, but I decided to just go with it.

I wondered if anyone would notice what I was wearing-

and boy did they ever!

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My first stop was the car place.  My car was due for an oil change, so I brought it to one of my go-to places.  Sure enough, the lady who usually waits on me asked me why I was all dressed up.  I “get to” sing for a funeral today, I told her.

Oh, I’m so sorry…

And that’s how most people respond.

Oh no- it is one of the greatest blessings that I “get to” sing about Jesus to a family who is grieving, I told her. There is nothing that brings me more joy than singing and being able to share His Word in such a special way with people.  For the Christ-follower, death is not the end… it’s the BEGINNING of eternal life with Him!  And that is something to celebrate!  

Then she tells me how much she needs to be in church.  Pray for me, she says.  I ended up having a short conversation with her, which ended with an invitation for her to join me at church this coming Sunday.

In fact, that was the first of many God-centered conversations I had while I was running errands.  I ended up inviting multiple people to my church, I got to talk about Jesus, and death, and funerals- all sorts of taboo subjects with random people today.   Why? All because I wore a black dress.

It’s amazing to me how He shows up in the little things.  And to think- I almost brought a change of clothes with me!   

I didn’t even have to try to make conversations with these people! He did it all for me.  I wanted to share all of this with you NOT to pat myself on the back, but just to show you that He’s not looking for the greatest, brightest, most talented people to use…

all He needs is someone who is willing.

Willing to say yes, to be obedient- to WHATEVER He wants! 

And today- all He wanted me to do was wear a black dress!

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be prepared in season and out of season…2 Timothy 4:2 

 

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I almost missed it

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lost in wonder

we sat under 

a tree- pensively waiting

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thoughtfully gazing 

we were both praising 

the Lord- and anticipating

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the silent display 

a heavenly array 

we beheld a glorious sight 

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while the world kept on spinning 

the two of us grinning-  

we watched Him turn day into night 

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One evening last week, I got a phone call from my husband.  He had worked late most evenings that week, and he had called to let me know he was on his way home.  About five minutes later, the phone rang again- Babe- grab your shoes and your camera and meet me outside, he says to me.  So I did.  The moment I stepped outside, I saw the cotton candy pink striped clouds through the trees.  Quick! Get in the car!  We drove the short distance to our closest sunset spot, and with each turn we saw the colors fading away.  We parked and the once magnificent display had settled into a dull gray sky.  Oh well. Even though we missed it, it meant the world to me that my husband tried to get me there in time to see the sunset.

Then this past weekend, hubby and I had an evening to ourselves, and to be quite honest- I wanted to sit at home and do absolutely nothing.  But my loving hubby suggested otherwise.  You know how much you love watching the sunset- let’s go find a spot and have dinner.

I was tired.  And I hadn’t seen a good sunset in a while- mostly because I have gotten out of the habit of looking for it.  But how could I resist an evening out with my hubby, with the promise of a sunset view?  So we drove up to one of our favorite spots in town, at the edge of a shopping center.  We parked and sat on the grassy hill, overlooking the valley and it was a magnificent evening.

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On that hill, we sat together and took in all the beauty around us. I was so grateful for the quiet time together.  It made me infinitely thankful for my husband- who loves me enough to get me out of the house- and he always knows just what I need.  Cars were passing by, people were going in and out of the stores… the busy world kept on turning- all while He was painting a masterpiece in the sky.

And if the evening had gone as I had initially wanted it to-

I would have missed out, too.

He went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Matthew 14:23

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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being “present”

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The moment I seek

and desire His presence-

I find He is near

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.  Isaiah 55:6

Twilight is my favorite time of day.  It is a time of two-fold expectation for me- expecting to see something beautiful in the sky, and it’s also a time to have a momentary heart-to-heart chat with my Heavenly Father.

Speaking of heart-to-heart chats,  I have been lamenting over how those chats with my daughters are fewer and farther between now that they are getting older.

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The girls woke me up early the other day with one request- to watch a movie with them.  Honestly, it wasn’t a movie that I had any desire to watch, but I thought about how seldom they ask me to do things with them now.

“Momma- NO laptop and NO phone!  You have to sit and pay attention!”

I smiled and secretly loved the fact that they wanted my undivided attention. So I obliged- I put away every electronic device and set aside every thought that was not pertinent to the task as hand.

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Surprisingly, I enjoyed watching the movie.  Mostly it was because I knew how much my girls wanted me to sit with them and experience the very same joy that they have when they put themselves into the movie’s fantasy world. But the greatest joy for me was watching their smiles, the way they looked back at me to see if I laughed when they did…and knowing that they wanted to feel connected to me through this shared experience.

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The verse above reminds me that when we seek to be in His presence, we know He is already with us.  As my girls are getting more independent, I find them asking to spend time with me less…and only coming to me when they need something.

But it made me think about all the times I do that very same thing with the Lord…only going to Him in prayer when I have a need- when my greatest need is to continually be in His presence.

He desires my constant fellowship with Him- reminding me that when my girls are truly seeking to spend time with me- all I need to do is to be present.

Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.

1 Chronicles 16:11

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eclipse

when clouds roll in

over a sky of blue 

and you can’t see the eclipse- 

what’s a girl to do? 

take a picture 

anyway! 

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I’m not really the best at planning ahead, so naturally I did not have a pair of “eclipse” glasses laying around the house.  But honestly, I wasn’t really interested in watching it… I’m just not that into you.

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Until I noticed the sky got all strange looking…and then I couldn’t look away.

 I admit it-  I was sucked into the eclipse obsession, trying my hardest NOT to look up, but still look around at all the cool clouds and colors.

 

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While the eclipse was a bust here in Charlottesville, I experienced my own personal “eclipse” that day.  It seemed as if a cloud were hanging over me when I woke that morning, and I was desperate to see the light of the Lord.  This was partly my own fault.   I’ve been spending way too much time watching the news and surfing the internet… spending time doing meaningless things that I could be spending with the Lord.  So I did everything I could to get my heart and mind completely focused on Him.

I turned off the tv.  I prayed.  I read scriptures.  I cried as I read through the Psalms…

Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
 I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.  Psalm 63

I prayed that verse over and over. Because His love is better than life. And the more I prayed it, the more my heart felt it.  He is everything.  He gives me life.  And I thought- why would I ever choose to do anything other than praise the Lord when I have any “down time”?  It is through worship that He fills me up!

Then I watched church on youtube. The first service I clicked on happened to be a baptism service.  It was so beautiful- on one side of the stage, there were people leading worship, and on the other, a pastor was baptizing and praying with people.  You could hear the cheers as the people were baptized.  I was so moved- I cried tears of joy for these people I’d never even met!

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I mean- I was all wrapped up in worship.  Hands raised, crying, singing…

And then I moved on over to the piano.  Words and music flowed out of me effortlessly.

It was such an amazing God-filled day.

It made me really think about how I was spending my “down” time on a regular basis-

Are the things I’m doing bringing me closer to the Lord?

Or are they taking precious time away from Him?

His love is better than life.  

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

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adulting

My girls went back to school yesterday.

It brings me JOY.. and it also makes me a little bit sad.  I remember all those years I dreamed of having a baby, and in my own naiveté, I thought those toddler years would last forever.  But I blinked, and my girls have grown up overnight.

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We celebrated so many firsts when they were little… their first giggle, their first bite of real food, their first steps… then came their first days of school… losing their first teeth…

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And now those “firsts” are becoming fewer and farther between. With one in 7th grade, and the other in 9th grade, I had to literally beg them for a first-day-of-school picture.  Gone are the days of them running to give me hugs when they get off the school bus, or them wanting to tell me all about their day.  I feel them trying to pull away from me and it is hard.

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But this time at our back-to-school night, I witnessed another first… 

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My oldest, who normally hides behind me- afraid to speak to anyone;  she actually introduced herself to all of her teachers-  on her own! And then she even asked them important questions- like about testing and whether they accepted late work.  And for the first time, I watched her beam with confidence as she walked down the hallways, waving and smiling at her friends.

My oldest was adulting… and it was one of my proudest “mom” moments yet!  Those little girl days may be a fading memory, but growing up is a good thing!IMG_4676

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.

1 Corinthians 13:11 

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pardon me, dude-

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Pardon me, dude-

I don’t mean to be

rude,

but I’m not

in the mood

for your

‘tude!

We had the most aMAZing week earlier this summer! The girls and I took a trip with our friends to Florida.  We went to Universal Studios Theme Park and it was absolutely fabulous!

If you know anything about my girls, you know that they are huge Harry Potter fanatics. So to say that their dreams came true is a slight understatement.  Harry Potter World at Universal did not disappoint- and even I was amazed!

But what I didn’t expect was how much fun we had in the Dr Seuss park! The lines were incredibly short and even I found my inner child as we rode the whimsical rides and listened to the wild rhymes of Dr Seuss.

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One night we were so tired that we couldn’t stop giggling.  You know how when you get overly tired how everything seems funny?  Well all of us girls were snuggled into the hotel beds, and I came up with that poem and I laughed so hard that I couldn’t even get it out.  I was trying to be serious, trying to get them to settle down and go to sleep, but even I couldn’t stop myself from laughing!

I am so thankful for that special week with my girls, and also for the reminder that you’re never too old to be a kid!fullsizeoutput_21f0

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